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Friday, May 25, 2012

WHATEVER WORKS THE MOVIE

woody allen in a corner



I like it when I click on "new post" and don't see a pop-up in the bottom right corner that says "send feedback." When that is on, it's crazy-making trying to write. Last night's problem frustrated me so much I quit writing after a paragraph, deleted it and went to bed. It's kind of like videos on youtube at a time of day a lot of people are engaged at youtube---the video stops and the horizontal thermometer at the bottom has to do its thing first, then the movie can go again, then it stops and the thermometer has to catch up again. It's the same kind of thing with the writing. I write about a line, then it stops and I have to wait half a minute or so, then write another line and it stops, I wait, it starts again, I go, it stops, I wait. I send feedback almost every day. They don't explain what they're doing. I'm imagining the website needs more space and they're making more space possible. I don't know. I hope they're working toward making it better, not worse. So far, it's only been worse, and it's been a few months. Sometimes, like now, it is working right. When they drop back to the previous format everything works smoothly. When they're working on what is evidently a new one, it messes up. I trust they're making it worse to make it better, tearing down the old to put up the new. Stay in one place in this world and you start slipping backwards into time past. Oops.


Have just now finished Woody Allen's 2011 film, WHATEVER WORKS. I'm glad to see Allen has returned to New York from London. He understands NY people. He does not understand the Brits with the same degree of subtlety. In America, he portrays what he understands. This film threw me back into earlier Allen films, Bananas, Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Hannah and Her Sisters, Husbands and Wives, not by particular references, but by association, by seeing Woody Allen's art eye and ear evolving to this one film that could be used as Allen's farewell message to his modest fan club. If he never makes another film, this one could be used to for the summation of everything he has ever had to say as an artist, and an allegory of his interior life. He's packed it all into this film like packing a billion snowflakes into a snowball. I'm glad he's gone to using an actor besides himself in his advanced years when his nose is uglier than ever. He's the perfect one to be the lead role in roles he writes for himself. In this one, Larry David played Allen's role. Early in the film he didn't look like Allen, but as it went along he looked more and more like Allen until by the final scene closeups on his face looked like Woody Allen without the awkward nose.


He worked the two women in the story as he most often does the leading women. In the beginning they're plain and nice looking. They change through the unveiling of the story and by the end come to be seen such gorgeous women they make Marilyn a cliche, which she has always been. He took two women from southern Mississippi, daughter and mother, and dropped them into Manhattan unannounced and unprepared, separately. "The chance factor in life is mind boggling," quoth he in the beginnings of his discoveries regarding the irrational in relation to the rational. Too much rational is confining like too much irrational. Together they make a balance, each one half a circle. This seemed to me the theme of the film, incompletion coming to some sort of temporary completion. It's like all the abstract background is true, but only in relation to the foreground which acts in specifics on the principles of the background, the super-ego and ego working together. Allen does think in psychological terms, so it's natural he would dramatize the relationship of the super-ego and the ego. All the foreground characters were adjusting their own relationships with themselves, like the frustrated Louisiana preacher who fell in love with a man in NY when he went there looking for his estranged wife, who happened to be living with two men, wallowing in irreverence.


Allen went all the way back to Greek plays and to Shakespeare, using a soliloquy to fill the audience in on some background to what we're seeing, turning aside from his role in the story to talk to the audience, which only he can see. At the end, he said to the audience, "I'm the only one that can see the whole picture. That's what makes me a genius." He's the one able to see that they're all roles in a play, as in life. Allen, himself, is often called a genius. This film indicates to me that he identifies with the word, embraces it, also is aware of its limitations. He puts his character, himself, the artist within, through assaults of the irrational to find completion, balance. Allen took the deep plunge in his own life when he divorced his wife, Mia Farrow, a woman whose beauty he accented in several films, to marry their adopted daughter, who was 19 at the time. He bought the Peggy Guggenheim's estate in Venice, knowing it was associated with bad luck for its owners. He subsequently made a string of films in London, lesser versions of films he'd made before, like Crimes and Misdemeanors became Match Point. In my way of seeing, the best films he made were done while married to Mia Farrow, evidently something of a muse, which she had been to Frank Sinatra and Andre Previn before Woody Allen.


Mia Farrow struck me as something of a vulnerable, humble sparrow Woody Allen transformed into a golden finch in the course of each film. Marrying his 19 yr old adopted daughter reminded me of Jerry Lee Lewis marrying his 13 yr old cousin. From then on, Jerry Lee was just another country singer who happened to be Jerry Lee Lewis. Seems like Allen's apparent folly (no telling how many hours his psychiatrist listened to him about the move from wife to daughter) was something of a blow to his reputation. However, I suspect it did nothing to the faithful, including myself, while the ones with a superficial interest in Allen fell away. That's just as well. It's best to have a small audience that appreciates what you're doing. My friends who are also Woody Allen fans have no less affection for his film making than before. Still, I'd about stopped watching the post-divorce films, because they were so much less than Woody Allen can deliver. A self-conscious old man. Woody Allen is too cool to be self-conscious about his old age, though the hypochondriac he is can't resist the temptation. In this one, Whatever Works, he's back in New York, an old guy marrying a Creole belle not long out of high school, a fussy old intellectual of an era gone by overtaken by cliches that tell it better, by letting go of the rational long enough to receive when "fate knocks at the door" or chance makes a connection otherwise unanticipated.



Whatever Works is straight-forwardly the story of a man who was all mind, understood everything mentally, had no room for that which did not figure rationally, like God and relationships with other people. This man is confronted by a chance encounter that made him pay attention to chance and start allowing the wisdom of the irrational to complete his incompletion, to make him whole. I felt like he was saying at the end that other people had called him a genius all along because he was so brilliant of mind, but finally by the end of the story he had found his own completion in his dive into the irrational. Finally he was able to see his own completion, accepting that it's not just about mind. In Woody Allen fashion, this film got zanier with each scene, all the way to the end where it was zaniest of all. Having seen so many of his films, this one is definitely a part of the whole, and it's back in New York where he is at home. One of his great lines that appeared here, the kind he inserts one or more of in every film, "If it wasn't for sexual inadequacy the NRA would go broke." His character said in praise of Job's wife, "she chose death to obsequious acceptance." Woody Allen is still very much alive and he's back. As a film, I'd say it's nowhere near Interiors, but it fits in well as one of the lesser of the better ones. I cannot ask any artist to be running on all cylinders all the time. This one struck me as something of an absurdist play instead of a movie. It had a kind of Neil Simon quality I cannot explain.



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