The Art And/Or The Man

Ever since that ‘unfavorable‘ story about Woody Allen hit the press I refused to watch any of his movies. Why couldn’t he have been accused of something else? Like murder perhaps. If he had been accused of murder I would have just loaded up “Crimes and Misdemeanors”—or its unofficial sequel “Match Point” (aren’t ‘most’ of Allen’s films ‘unofficial sequels?’)—and regaled in their prescience. But ‘this’; I cannot use ‘this’ as a launchpad for curious reinterpretations of his work. ‘This’ had me trying to flush him out of my mind. Force his influence from my work (I’ve always thought that if he and I collaborated on a flick it would be devastatingly brilliant, it would take place in the the 20s, Harlem, black-&-white, lots of swingin’ jazz, protagonist would be a bespectacled nebbishy piano player named something like Hamilton ‘Ham’ Eddie who falls in love with a brilliant writer who dreams of living in Paris and when she’s not tip-tapping away at her typewriter she’s teaching herself French, think “Celebrity” meets “Midnight in Paris” with a dash of Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues,” but I digress).

Bullshit principles aside, just the other night I loaded up one of my favorite Allen flicks, “Manhattan” (“I’m from Philadelphia. I believe in God.”); man…just peep that opening: Black-&-white super-widescreen framing of a late 70s New York. Allen’s wonderfully ambivalent narration. Gershwin’s slippery and triumphant “Rhapsody in Blue” blarin’ behind it all. Interestingly, when I first watched this flick, the relationship between Allen and Mariel Hemingway’s seventeen-year-old character creeped me out. However, after subsequent viewings I began to I see it as a satirical jab at insecure, middle-aged men who date very young women; in making the Hemingway character a virtual child, Allen was referencing the absurdity of these relationships. Also…the constant doubt Allen’s character expresses about their union juxtaposed with the surprising gravitas of Hemingway’s character added an interesting dilemma for the audience. We are forced, not to reconcile with their relationship, but to merely ‘consider’ reconciliation. Our knee-jerk reactions give way and gray seeps in, making a mess of our preconceived notions.

Wait a minute. What am I doing? I gotta have some integrity. If I’m not fucking with Woody, then I’m not fucking with Woody, but here I am ‘fucking with Woody?!’ Shit. Is this ‘divorce’ even possible? Will I ‘ever’ be able to—

Fuck it.

Let’s ‘curiously reinterpret’ some shit…

Both “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Match Point” question the widely held belief that there is a divine moral authority who doles out eternal punishment for our wrong-doings. Their answers are cynical: Both protagonists walk free after the murders of their mistresses (in “Crimes” Martin Landau’s character tasks his mob-connected brother to take out his mistress, in “Match Point” Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character does the dirty work himself). Any ‘punishment’ for their actions now lies with them and them alone, not a god or any other moral authority; which raises the question: Will these men live lifes burdened by guilt or will they be able to ‘live with’ what they have done? This led me to wonder: Were these films Allen’s way of reconciling with his own actions? Maybe if audiences—gasp!—found themselves ‘enjoying’ their time in his morally dissonant worlds he could place the burdens of his guilt onto them. As a writer myself, I wrestle with many, many demons in my work. It’s one of the most beautiful things about this game, so I understand this desire, and although I cannot ‘live with’ the idea that one of my primary influences did something this heinous I ‘still’ am able to connect with the art and spite the man. But then again…

A couple days ago I caught “Crimes” on cable (a moment that used to bring me great joy) and once it ended there was a spot advertising Allen’s latest flick, “Blue Jasmine,” starring Cate Blanchett and Louis C.K.!!!! A flick I had been jonesin’ to see ever since I first became aware of it. But instead of joy, I felt indifference. And the crazy thing is, I’m responding to allegations, not what has been prov—

Wait a minute. Soon-Yi. Soon fucking Yi.

Damn it.

I was very young when the whole Soon-Yi ‘scandal’ broke and since I found Allen’s work long after the dust settled on it I felt I could ignore it. But now, now there’s ‘this.’


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