Today's movie was Woody Allen's Hannah and Her Sisters, one I've seen five times as of today. This is over several years. It's almost thirty years old. I like to see it from time to time for a refresher to enjoy the thousands of details forgotten as it recedes into my past. This film was made in Allen's time of making his finest films. Mia Farrow was Allen's wife in that time and she played in several of his films. I never gave her much thought until she appeared in his films and I saw what a great actress she is. I chose the word great because good does not qualify with her. Other people in the movie were good actresses and actors, but Mia Farrow was great, is always great. I didn't realize how important she was to Allen until their divorce. Without her, his films have lost a major ingredient that I have to associate with her. I've not seen anything by Allen in his post-Mia era I'd want to see a second time, or even the first time. For one thing, he's been filming in London and Paris. He does not know those cultures well enough to weave his story in and out of the culture his characters are products of, and live in the way he does in New York. New York is the other subject in his New York films. He brought an architect into Hannah and Her Sisters for the chance to give us a tour of the city's varied architecture. I think New York City is the love of Woody Allen's life. He loves New York like I love the Blue Ridge. His films in his time with Mia Farrow were loaded with introspection, clever insights into American culture, New York culture, the people of New York. American culture is one of Allen's themes. His New York stories are even comments on American culture. Outside New York his characters do not flow with the culture they live in like they do in New York. New York is one of the characters in Allen's stories. I've largely given up looking for a post-Mia film by Allen that satisfies in myself the fullness he taught me to appreciate in his art form. I've decided to review his films I love instead of seeing more of the new ones that consistently disappoint. Match Point was a weak rewriting and redirecting of Crimes and Misdemeanors, one of his very finest, perhaps my favorite.
I don't like to cast judgment on an artists work, especially an artist such as Woody Allen. It seems like writers and artists of other forms have a period when they were doing their best work. I don't expect an artist to give an even performance. Harold Pinter comes to mind as the exception to that rule of thumb. Pinter's plays were rungs on a ladder in that they were better and better, one play to the next, all the way along his career as a London playwright. Shakespeare's progression was to the better with each play unto King Lear and The Tempest. It was looking like Woody Allen was in that same line of progression. He started making movies about young people he did not understand in a city he did not understand, anyway not like he understood New York. Too many generation gaps separate him from the young of today. I think of a college professor friend who found after so many generation gaps he lost his feeling that he could relate with his students. He stayed with them for quite awhile and they gradually slipped away from him, year by year. I don't get the sense from Woody Allen's recent films that he can relate with the young anymore either. I don't mean to advise him on his life as writer, actor and director of his films. I don't mean to criticize. I don't like to speculate on that which can never be known, but it seems like Mia was a muse for him. I don't dare attempt to find out why. This man has an appointment with a psychiatrist every day. One would think it would make him either super rational or super nutty. It's made him neither. He is a writer, an actor, comedian, musician, director, making production, a successful New York artist. He's also a husband, a father, his society New York's wealthiest. I'm thinking he might be a workaholic motivated by wanting to have little time for the social part of that society or any other. He's like a Bob Dylan of film. Dylan is a songwriter, singer, musician, bandleader, director of a traveling show requiring a multitude of electricians, trucks, workers and musicians. He has a radio show on a satellite radio channel. These are two of many artists in my generation whose art success has made them into businessmen with an extensive staff.
These are two busy men, both of them artists whose art forms start with writing. Allen writes a screenplay, Dylan writes a collection of songs. Allen puts the script into production through his own staff as director. Dylan gathers a band to learn the songs, practice and record the songs. Next, the tour, interviews, photographers, lawyers, fans. Driven workaholics. The kind of people who would have immense success at whatever they chose to do. They are artists who did not listen to the people around them saying you can't make any money doing art. Allen and Dylan were both so hyper talented in their early years, it seemed like the talent was so big it drove them. The talent itself made workaholics of them to keep up. I've heard that when Woody Allen made the film of his Tuesday night clarinet band playing in Europe, he lodged himself separately from the band and didn't spend much time with them. Dylan, I've heard, stays to himself on tour, doesn't party or sit around and shoot the shit. Looks to me like they're both so busy they don't have the time or the inclination to drink too much and listen to other people complain. They're both writing while they're making production. I'm guessing what they like about their privilege of fame and money is it affords them the luxury to do nothing but work on their art making. Both Dylan and Allen need genius minds to multi-task on such a scale as they do. I've never heard or read anything about either one of them being charming socially. Quite the opposite. In the video of Obama hanging a medal around Dylan's neck, it showed Obama was impressed that this was Bob Dylan, while Dylan found it another occasion to say harrumph. I too often forget that the people like them who are rich and famous were once young artists in their beginnings and nobody ever heard of them while they were looking for the "break" that would take them where they are today.