March 31, 2011
‘I’ve seen every Woody Allen movie. Here’s what I’ve learned…’
Watching Annie Hall and Manhattan (and, yes, Interiors) as a teenager gave me a much needed glimpse into a viable alternative existence to life in my working class factory town. And seeing Allen’s character as a child, saying of his classmates, “Even then, I knew they were all idiots” was one of the most liberating moments of my life. I heard an audible “click” in my brain. Maybe everything was going to be OK, as long as I stayed alive long enough to get the hell out of there.
Naturally, I realize now that I would have been happier, sooner, if only my Hollywood-inspired ideal of adulthood had been the movies of, who? Shit, I dunno… Hal Needham?. (At least then I’d have learned how to drive.) But Allen’s films were the booster rockets that got me off the launch pad.
Then came the inevitable disillusionment. Allen’s bizarroworld affair thingie with his stepdaughter shattered my friends and I, who had also grown up hanging on his every word and film. This is true: they gathered at my apartment a few hours after the news broke that afternoon and we had a group freak-out that lasted well after the sun set. (I distinctly remember that a couple of us didn’t even sit down during this lengthy cathartic get together; we just stomped around angrily. Luckily, I lived on the ground floor.)
We also went to see Husbands and Wives together later that year anyhow, but that was the last of his movies I’ve seen. I even remember not taking off my bulky winter coat during the entire film, whatever that was supposed to “mean.” I just slouched in my seat, smouldering, having a furious, catatonic fit.
Because I’ve already invested so much time into Allen’s films, I’ll keep making my annual pilgrimage without regard to quality, holding out for the possibility of a swan song. At his latest, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, I saw a hint of a way forward in the plotlines dedicated to Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) and Helena (Gemma Jones), who worry about senescence and death not simply because these are facts of life, but because, like their creator, they’ve reached old age. A film that broaches the regular lot of preoccupations from the deathbed perspective rather than the needlessly-anxious-middle-age one could—here’s hoping—bring poignancy back to the Woody Allen experience.