Thursday, July 12, 2012


Woody Allen never had to create a persona for himself in life. He is identical to one of his most memorable creations, Zelig, a man who appeared and left without leaving as much as a trace. His opus is marked by arbitrariness, almost devoid of prejudice or a morality tale, which generally is forced upon you in American movies that have a difficult time escaping from the curse of redemption, whatever the premises might have been. Allen's pyrotechnics fit the grand American period, mostly forgotten. Belatedly he made room for a more cynical narrative, starting with his movie Match Point maybe. This represented a  big leap from Gershwin to the merciless inroads in the pseudo sordid chic of  Euro trash, which he scans with an unmatched brio (for an American.)  He switched from the neurotic intellectual world in New York City to the Prosecco crowd which can be viewed ad nauseam in Vanity Fair.  He observes both categories with a mixture of disdain and commiserative sympathy. In his latest European ventures he comes close to Almodovar but cannot handle the latter's perverse virtuosity.  If he tried, he might come over as clumsy. He is wise to  keep his distance and to leave the farcical to its own devices (which can be cruel), without intervening.
It is hard to judge the personality of Woody Allen. Should his more European genre be seen as a snub to America?  I doubt it, but it cannot be excluded. On the other hand, Europe comes over as a foregone backdrop for a society in tatters which plays out an indifferent libido with interchangeable partners.  The decor, be it London, Paris or Rome, is far more the deus ex machina which reduces the actors to discredited cliches, lost in grandiose inherited surroundings which they no longer can appreciate. Likewise in his American movies, Allen made New York City the focal point of  his story but there was still a connection, maybe neurotic, between his human chessboard and the city.
The latter found solace in the former and vice-versa. In Midnight in Paris Allen came close to a similar type of complicity but it remained more voyeuristic than existential.
Those film qualities can hardly resist the onslaught of Hollywood which has betrayed the sophistication of the classical American comedy and shamelessly produces blockbusters for the insane, which inhabit the current global fast food mondialisation. The same goes for other filmmakers by the way, who find it more and more difficult to argue for a space, which has largely been overtaken by a Behemoth who is deforming people and minds. As Woody said it, 80% of success is simply showing up. The masses do.

We live more and more in a world of undesirability.  Today's l'air du temps sucks. Wars will soon have their proper TV channel en direct, Kabul or Congo or South Sudan.  One can already zap between cluster bombs, suicide vests and one or another hunger calamity. Allen does not to have to talk about that. His silence is the critical subtitle of the parodies and escapism which rule the waves.  He knows that on the subject of war and peace everything has been said since Jean Renoir's La Grande Illusion.  Erich von Stroheim, who played in this masterpiece, said that "in Hollywood you are as good as your last picture." While Woody Allen, fortunately, still prefers to remain bi-coastal westwards, there is more to come.  There might also be more to lose,  alas.

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