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July 24, 1987 - Image 24

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-24

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

CLOSE-UP

oody Allen peers out from a half-
opened door and damned if he doesn't look
cute. Somber, but cute. One may have ar-
rived with the thought of roughing him up
a little bit, but one leaves wanting to play
some small part in his support system. He
merits protection, like a threatened rare
loon, even one that gets on your nerves
sometimes with its whining We've got to
keep Woody Allen making movies, partly
because nobody can make Woody Allen
movies but him, and partly because there
are only so many Woody Allen movies left
to be made.
The trick will be getting him to make
them.
"What I see for myself in my life's game
plan, though I may be struck down by an
automobile before that happens, is, I see
stopping making films at a certain point
because they're strenuous, it's hard work,
and I'd like to write books," Woody Allen
says. "I almost feel I'd like to do that now.
It would be fun. People always say, 'You
can't beat the hours.' lb get up in the morn-
ing and not have to get picked up by the
Thamster and go out to the set and deal
with everybody. It'd be fun just to lollygag
around the house, and practice the clarinet,
and write."
Is this a threat? In a way, yes. And not
just the part about that stupid clarinet,
either — the one he plays at Michael's Pub
on Monday nights and uses as an excuse
not to go to the Oscars. So many details
about Woody's real life and his on-screen
alter ego's life are so well known and have
been so mooshed up together in a blur, that
they may seem like cliches. But beneath
them is a true American original, albeit
one who longs for the acceptance and
legitimacy of the foreign artistes he
reveres. If you don't gotta love the guy, you
gotta at least root for the guy, for anybody
who can run rings around the system the
way Woody has, who can repeatedly tap
the resources of the Hollywood Establish-
ment to make personal, idiosyncratic,
literate anti-Hollywood films. Some of
them have been insufferable, but none of
them have been hopelessly impaired by
compromise. It's a real accomplishment, an
admirable body of work.
For Woody, the question is whether he
is now at a crossroads or an impasse. With
Annie Hall, he took the big leap forward,
from gag comedy into romantic, character
comedy (from funny comedy to serious
comedy, one might say), and with Hannah
and Her Sisters he seemed to refine the
process further. Still, even with the ac-
claimed Hannah there was a certain
hesitancy, a holding back; it was disap-
pointing to find out, near the end of the
film, that it was not about Hannah and her
sisters so much as it was about the Woody

© 1987 Esquire Magazine. Reprinted by permis-
sion of North America Syndicate.

24

FRIDAY, JULY 24, 1987

orrying
With Woody

At 51, Woody Allen,wants to be taken
seriously. Many of his fans, though, would
prefer that he make them laugh.

TOM SHALES

Special to The Jewish News

Allenesque character played by Woody
Allen.
There is a strain of peevishness, and even
churlishness, that runs through Allen's
work and, perhaps, through his life. Oh,
he's worried, worried, worried, but maybe
not about the right things. He worries
about his films becoming too popular, he
says, and he frets that "I've never made a
film that could remotely be considered a
masterpiece. Not even remotely." Woody
Allen is a New York provincial (an Upper
East Side provincial, actually) who suffers
from one of the oldest inferiority com-
plexes in the book, the feeling that Euro-
peans such as his idol Ingmar Bergman
grapple with all the deep questions while
their American counterparts are a bunch
of vulgar softies by comparison. Most sen-
sible people who go through this in college
eventually grow out of it. Woody has a ter-
minal case. It's one of the really irritating
things about him and, ironically, one
reason he may never make the "master-
piece" he says has eluded him.
An essential part of Allen's wit is the

way it shoots down pretentiousness, often
by juxtaposing the metaphysical with the
mundane. In his long, brilliant monologue
at the end of Love and Death, Woody, ad-
dressing the camera, notes, "There are
worse things in life than death. If you've
ever spent an evening with an insurance
salesman, you know exactly what I mean."
In his elegant existentialist parody "The
Condemned," one of his best short stories,
Allen wrote, "Cloquet hated reality but
realized it was still the only place to get a
good steak." It seems that Woody Allen is
letting the delicate balance get away from
him, that he is so attracted to the solemn,
artful side he neglects the self-depreciating
side.
It isn't just a struggle between a Good
Woody and a Bad Woody; it's more like one
between a Funny Neurotic Woody and a
Nasty Neurotic Woody. The Woodyness vs.
his Allenness. The Woody on the screen
usually bounces back from his binges of
angst; in Love and Death he danced off in-
to the distance with the specter of mortali-
ty from The Seventh Seal. The real Woody

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