Woodman dazed but conscious, Broad View still at-large, film at eleven

Man, Lisa Rosman lays into Woody Allen:

Allen’s movies, churned out at an ever-increasingly feverish rate, have devolved into mere dissociation devices from his utterly disturbing life. And I resent playing audience to emotional resistance-as-art—which is why I also yawn at the redundantly pathological works of David Lynch, who once proclaimed that he discontinued therapy when he realized it would change his art. Yes, yes, neurosis provides the backbone of most great art, but as a starting-point rather than as a place to permanently malinger. After Husbands and Wives, the gloriously cinema verite Dear John in Special 3-D 20-20 Hindsight that he filmed presumably right before he passive-aggressively let his partner discover nude pics he’d taken of her daughter, I’ve always contended that Mr. Konisberg lost his footing. Since then, he has only clocked in shoddy rationalizations of artistic narcissism (Hollywood Ending, Deconstructing Harry, Celebrity, Everyone Says I Love You); doggedly light, me-thinks-he-protests-too-much contrivances ([Curse of the Jade Scorpion]); and lethal cocktails mixed from both (Celebrity, Melinda and Melinda, in which he dragged his characters-are-mere-marionettes conceit down to a whole new low).

It goes on, and on. Rosman makes so many good points—and has whetted my appetite for a Jonathan Rosenbaum essay that looks like a takedown to the Woodster ever further—that I find myself almost chagrined to gnash my teeth at her central premise. It’s a common fallacy—namely, that Woody makes films as a way of doing therapy on himself, and that there’s an almost one-to-one ratio between the characters he plays onscreen and his life offscreen. The Lynch quote is interesting, in part because Rosman is right about neurosis being only a starting point, but also because I’m not sure Allen has explicitly said anything like that about his own work. There’s a lot of assumptions being made here.

All in all, it’s a great read. She’s obviously got a complicated relationship to the Woodman—she says herself that he reminds her of her dad—and, to be honest, so do I, which is why her piece resonates so much with me. I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion my on-again/off-again love affair with his work. I’ve resisted seeing Match Point—it’s in my Netflix queue, but waaaay down the list—and hadn’t planned on seeing Scoop. Rosman may have changed my mind:

But Scoop heralds a new Woody era, in which the Woody persona finally reverts to its rightful place in his cinematic universe: a largely irrelevant, Sleeper-era borscht-belt court jester sidelining the main event, just out to make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh without any underlying existential angst or divorced-dad self-pity. Casting the fulsome 21-year-old Johansson has a lot to do with that. Though she frequently costars with significantly older men, something about the sensuality of her full-lipped, lingering baby fat highlights the creepiness of their desire—so much so that 70-something Allen has finally capitulated to the role of a pseudo fatherly advisor, though he grouses about it bitterly all along the way and luxuriates in the joke that he’s hardly decent papa material.

Then again, that’s pretty backhanded praise. Anyway, the whole thing’s worth reading.

About Walter Biggins

Walter Biggins is a writer based in Atlanta, GA. He is the co-author (with Daniel Couch) of Bob Mould's Workbook (Bloomsbury, 2017). His work has been published in The Quarterly Conversation, RogerEbert.com, Bookslut (RIP), The Comics Journal, The Baseball Chronicle, and other periodicals. Twitter: @walter_biggins.
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