Thursday, April 27, 2006
musing #1: woody allen's infidelity
auteur /o:t3r/ noun a director who so greatly influences the films directed as to be able to rank as their author. [French,=Author]
I had wanted my first official post to be a review, but inspiration struck me as I watched Match Point, Woody Allen's latest film. It seems somewhat apt that I would begin with a piece about one of my favorite filmmakers, though. When I first discovered Allen's work-- many, many moons ago-- It was like finding a soul-mate: a neurotic intellectual with a penchant for beautiful women and beautiful brains (not to mention the almost scientific urge to fuse the two together). His on-screen image was, for many years, that of a cowardly nebbish whose insecurities are in constant battle with his self involvement and pithy attitude towards modern life. This is not to say, however, that he has been a "one-note" performer. Upon re-viewing his films, you will find a marked variety in the level of confidence and concern that his characters display.
Whether he is working within the conventions of broad comedy or high drama, Allen's films are always rooted in a kind of artful intelligence. His earlier comedies seamlessly weave together slapstick, philosophy, and allusions to Russian literature; his dramatic efforts bare the stylistic influence of European art cinema and explore, with remarkable depth and insight, the dark complexities of human psychology. At his best, Woody Allen injects all of these elements into a single film (gosh... I'm making me want to sit down and watch Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors all over again).
Now, Woody Allen is not for everyone. Some find the stilted cadence of his dialogue off-putting, while others object to the sordid details of his much-publicized love life. I suspect, however, that many people simply don't want to sit through another variation of the New York elite engaging in romantic affairs fable that Allen so often revisits. These reasons are all valid, but I have remained a fan, and I believe that Woody Allen's biggest infidelity was to his audience when he released a slew of half-assed comedies in an attempt to garner (or re-garner) mainstream success.
With Match Point, though, Allen is back in top form. Yes, it's a tale about infidelity, but this time it concerns the British elite!!! This film not only reassured me that Woody has not yet reached his own Hollywood Ending, but refreshed my memory as to what a formidable director he is. For ages now, I have been primarily critical of his writing; the scripts to his last few films have felt un-finished to me. The story of Match Point is certainly engaging, but what really grabbed my attention was the camera work. The way that Allen frames his characters and reveals intimate details with deliberate movement is so affective. I was drawn in immediately, largely the result of Allen's subtle technique, and I am inclined to believe that this film could have the same kind of impact on those who don't generally care for his work. This is the Woody Allen film that, I think, stands the greatest chance of capturing the kind of mainstream appeal that he hasn't seemed to have been able to muster for decades.