Though I find Woody Allen to be somewhat inconsistent, overall he is one of the film makers whose new films I still look forward to.
Recently I watched Manhattan again, and while it not long ago would have held a place in my top ten, I found it not unlike a favourite t-shirt – comfortable and perfect in places but overall a little worse for wear. There are still scenes within it that I can only call great.
What had me thinking about it again was not only that I had just seen Midnight in Paris and (again) Vicki Cristina Barcelona, but that I was wondering why there were such mixed reviews of his work. I knew people who hated the latter film while I quite enjoyed it (and this time I enjoyed it again).
It seemed to me that there were elements of film beyond the story and craft that played into how we individually value films.
In Midnight in Paris, I loved meeting historical figures that formed a large part of my cultural make-up – the artists and writers milling about in Paris in the 20s. To hear the spot on evocations of Hemingway and Dali among others was a pleasure independent of many things which translated though into me saying it was a good film. And yet, I wondered if how lost someone might be if they had no experience of those touchstones.
Similarly in Vicki Cristina Barcelona, it was my love of the city and the time I spent there that added more than a little to my valuation of that film. It is impossible to tell how I would feel about that film without having had the time there.
However overall I don’t quite understand any thinking person not connecting with his films. Apart from some of the absolute dogs Like Jade Scorpion or Whatever Works, his films explore the universal basics of existence. They are works of philosophy in that they examine what makes life worth living. And they are funny too.
I could simply say “what’s not to like?” But the crowds do prove me wrong on that. It is easy enough to find fault in all his films for the somewhat repetitive dialogue (sometimes it seems as if every character is Woody in drag) but perhaps what really stands out, and this is also true of Mike Leigh, his films are rare in that they are aimed at audiences who have made it past puberty.