What a career! What an effect Woody Allen has had on my world! Friends rave, discuss his work as they reel off the names of his films, the names of who played what in his films, and what happened to so-and-so.
It annoys me.
I skimmed an article about Woody that was written by Sam Tanenhaus, NY Times Book Review Editor, and studied the photos of Woody working with Penelope Cruz, Alec Baldwin and others in the cast of TO ROME WITH LOVE – his latest new film that just opened.
I found myself wondering why Woody’s doing films about European places – tourists hot spots -- what’s on his mind? Vacationing? Or his usual man-living-in-a-movie character, pursuing new sexual adventures?
The NY Times critic said: “The legendary film maker returns to his old obsessions -- sexual avarice and megalomaniacal control.” The Hollywood Reporter and the LA Times said that Woody’s rehashing scenes we’ve seen and laughed at before, and they are no longer very amusing.
Has Allen become a creative genius who has nothing new to say? Has he run out of gas – become what I call a “once waser” ?
For me, Woody Allen was never very important or inspiring.. His first slapstick movies, BANANAS, and SLEEPER, that won him a cult following, mostly annoyed me. I liked ANNIE HALL, (with Diane Keaton) -- because of her performance, I've seen it a few times. I didn’t love MANHATTAN, or the soap-opera-ish HANNAH AND HER SISTERS.
It annoyed me back then, and annoys me now, when Woody Allen is mentioned in the same breath as Stanley Kubrick or Francis Ford Coppola.
Hell, I’m not going to list of his successes and failures and what earned him awards. I um-um when our theater friends rave about Woody. I think he lucked into fame and glory because his psychoanalytic self was the storyteller, and psycho stuff was IN during the seventies, when Woody Allen was rising as a performer and movie maker.
I know I’m offending my friends and neighbors, who love old movies and musicals, and the actors who starred in them. Declaring I don’t love Woody is sinfully worse than saying Ingmar Bergman films bore me. Even the mess Allen made when he slept with his stepdaughter and married her, doesn’t really interest me -- it just annoys me, that the scandal made him more famous, more successful.
Why does his success annoy me? It’s jealousy, mixed with a sense of myself needing praise, and wise eyes on my work – needing help and artistic direction -- needing parents watching over me and helping me like Jack Rollins and Charles Joffee, the high-powered agent and manager team who helped shape the careers of Dick Cavett, Steve Martin and Billy Crystal, Lenny Bruce, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Robin Williams, Robert Klein, and David Letterman. Oh my -- how Rollins-Joffee helped Woody, and Rollins, even now, watches over and supports Allen.
If ... If I’d had an eye on me, other than my own ... If I had been willing to compete ... If, if ...
If Woody hadn’t had the ability to let himself be helped by outside eyes, would he be the legendary movie maker that he is now?
Right now, though his latest movie received mostly negative reviews, he’s already working on his next movie, hiring actors, working on the script.
I admire and am inspired by the gut in him, the thing in him that keeps him fired up, taking chances, reaching, creating – ignoring the success/failure issues.
Is it a gut for making money? Nope. Woody Allen needs to create like I need to write and explain why I don’t admire what he creates and deeply admire the thing in a man or woman that keeps them trying new things.