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July 24, 1987 - Image 30

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

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JULY 24, 1987



That's the Magic



FRIDAY, JULY 24, 1987


Continued from preceding page

terests me. I don't get a chance to watch
much television because I work most of the
time, and I go to bed, and I maybe watch
the news and part of a ball game and go
to sleep. I'm familiar with the most
popular people but not much."
He has never even seen David Letter-
"That's on too late for me. I mean, that's
really on late. I'm not even close to that."
Hmmm. "I know who he is, because Rollins
and Joffe handle him."
Thoughtful pause.
"I know Eddie Murphy. I know who he
is," Allen ventures. "I'm still arrested in the
stage of Mort Sahl and Jonathan Winters?'
He searches his memory. "I've seen Robin
Williams," he notes, as a kind of goodwill
offering. Ibld that Neil Simon, who also
started as a TV gag writer in the Fifties,
has been covering approximately the same
time period, the early Forties, in his
Brighton Beach trilogy that Allen covered
in Radio Days, Woody looks incredulous.
"Is he? This I didn't know."
His aversion to television is now fairly
complete. He not only rarely watches it, he
won't go on it, not even to promote his
films. He did do a brief interview last year
for The MacNeiVLehrer NewsHour to pro-
test the colorization by computer of black-
and-white films, but heck, that was public
television, not the real thing. "I don't go
on because I think it's better if people
come to my movies to see me. I think if I
go on television, they won't come to my
movies. Now, many people demonstrate to
me this is not so — you know, 'Look at Ed-
die Murphy or Steve Martin, people that
appear all the time, and they get so many
more people at their movies than you do.'
But I just have stayed off. Maybe some
day I would like to do a television special
or something. That would be fun. Stan-
dards have changed so much on television.
It's become so much . . . faster, in a way."
Such quaint ideas he has about some
things, and yet there couldn't be much
point in trying to talk Woody out of them.
He's doing so well as it is. He makes films
under conditions that scores of Hollywood-
based directors would kill for. He may
squander some of these blessings, but it is
human nature to squander blessings. He
has heard so much blather about his work
pro and con and mixed over the years that
you can't blame him for blocking most of
it out and proceeding in the way he wants.
It's not as if anybody else is making com-
edies that are wittier or wiser or more
humane. What, indeed, was Heartburn but
the kind of film Woody Allenmight have
made if he'd been much, much less
"There've been people over the years who
say, 'Gee, he can only work with women'
and 'He writes such good women,' and they
extol that, and then, you know, about the
same projects there's been the other side
of that. They say, 'I don't like the way he
treats women.' And this happened, too,
with Jewishness, where there've been peo-
ple who've written over the years, 'This guy
is too Jewish' and 'It's Jewish humor,' and
other people who have written, 'He's anti-
Semitic, he hates Jews.' Why, I don't know.

I never thought I was anti-Semitic, nor did
I ever think I was antifeminist.
"People over the years have always
thought I was appreciated by an intellec-
tual audience, but I've always felt the ex-
act opposite was true. I never found myself
appreciated by the so-called intellectual
critics. The more intellectual the critic, the
worse I've done with them over the years.
I've never been a favorite of Pauline Kael's
or Dwight McDonald's or Stanley Kauff-
mann's or John Simon's or those peole that
you think of as the more erudite critics. I
don't know who my audience is, but it
hasn't been the intellectual press. I just
don't know who it has been. When I was
a comic they used to say to me, 'You do col-
lege concerts; they're gonna love you,
they'll eat you up,' and I would do college
concerts, and I would have to give back the
money because nobody would come."
Perhaps the audience and the critics
have had no role in Woody Allen's improve-
ment over the years as a filmmaker and he
did it all himself, listening to himself, learn-
ing from mistakes. He is hardly pleased

"There's never been a film of
mine that I've been really
satisfied with," he says, and he
never ever sees his films once
they've been released because
"I think I would hate them."

with his progress, however. "There's never
been a film of mine that I've been really
satisfied with," he says, and he never ever
sees his films once they've been released
because "I think I would hate them."
At their best, his films are capable of im-
parting immense emotional and aesthetic
gratifications. Although some of his
austere touches, like holding a shot of an
empty room while characters walk into and
out of the frame, are a trifle arch. There is
nevertheless real fluidity to many of his
films, and from time to time, they have
bordered on joy. Muted joy, of course.
Silence in the screening room. Woody
looks withered from interrogation. He
sometimes stops hugging the pillow to did-
dle with the sound controls on a console
near the couch. In the stillness, my
stomach can be heard to growl. Woody
goes off to the kitchenette asking, "Would
you like a cracker? Would you like some
water?" I can hear him ask, as he did of
Louise Lasser in Bananas, "Are you
hungry? I could open a can of ribs if you
want." Now that was a funny one. There've
been lots of cans of ribs since then.
And so the isolationism, the aloofness,
the detachment, the incestuous casting,
the old-fashioned notions, the table at
Elaine's — let him have all these things.
The guilt, too, about not being Kurosawa
or Eisenstein, as long as he's happy. As
long as he keeps making Woody Allen
"I wish somebody would come in and tell
me I can't make films anymore," Woody

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