Saturday, March 31, 2007

Woody Allen, Or, "The Heart Wants What the Heart Wants"

Woody Allen is, by far, the most complicated of American filmmakers (Marty Scorcese is a close second). His subjects, of late, have been rather Nietzchean by way of Manhattan. The "Good" and "Moral" types who play by societal rules are, in film after Woody Allen film, the suckers who get their lunch money taken by Life, whereas the Machiavellian schemers who ply their trade in the shadows to get what they want, even if doing so transgresses Natural Law, end up the anti-heroes, the Winners. How curiously un-American (Which may be why Allen is so revered on the other side of the Atlantic and in the drawing rooms on the Upper West Side)

Allen himself is a cautionary tale. By Puritanical American standards, sleeping with and then marrying the adopted child of one's girlfriend is usually grounds of dismissal from Cafe Society. Usually. But Woody, by virtue of his American genius, has countered that trend. He is the exception.

"The heart wants what the heart wants" is how Woody explained his behavior at the time with Soon-Yi. And that philosophy is still operative. Say those intrepid Page Sixxies:

"ONE of the best moments in the documentary 'A Table in Heaven' - a behind-the-scenes chronicle of the creation of the new Le Cirque - shows a woman in a slinky dress slipping Woody Allen her card on the eatery's opening night. While his wife Soon-Yi looks on, Allen sheepishly puts the card into the breast pocket of his tweed blazer."

Cringe-inducing, to be sure; yet, who among us didn't see that one coming from a mile away? If this were a scene in a Woody Allen movie -- and it really very well could be -- Carlo Di Palma would follow with his camera the trajectory from the tweed pocket, lingering for a second on the surface of the fabric, then, abruptly, to the sheepish ruins of Soon Yi's face, played, to sympathetic effect, by Ziyi Zhang. Sam Waterston, playing Woody's alter-ego would reply, anxiously but guilt free, "What?" Gesticulating wildly, "Honey, I-I-I'm a Director, she's an actress, it's just business. This happens to me all the time, nothings going to happen. Stop worrying." And, placated, Zhang would say, relieved, "I'm sorry, I don't know what I'm making such a big deal about. Forget it. Let's just order dinner."

Finally, of course, the TellTale Confessional Woody Allen voiceover, in muted tones, "Who'm I kidding. As soon as Dinner is over, I'm going to use that number. I'm such a schmuck. I've got a beautiful, caring wife ... Why do we always hurt the one's we love?"

(Page Six)

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