January 3, 2013

Career Arcs: Woody Allen

Woody Allen movies don't make for quite as apples to apples comparisons as Bertie and Jeeves novels or Aubrey and Maturin novels, since some are intentionally serious and unappealing. But they are still worth plotting out inflation-adjusted domestic box office over time (data from BoxOfficeMojo). 

The Gross column is in millions of today's dollars. The Versus Mean column compares box office to Woody's mean box office (a little under $30 million current dollars). Thus, Annie Hall's $133 million in today' dollars is 350% more than (or 4.5 times) his $30 million mean. 

Title Release  Age  Gross V. Mean Rank
Everything You Always … 1972  36 82 178 4
Sleeper 1973  37 81 172 5
Love and Death 1975  39 76 157 6
Annie Hall 1977  41 133 350 1
Interiors 1978  42 35 17 9
Manhattan 1979  43 124 317 2
Stardust Memories 1980  44 30 1 10
A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy 1982  46 24 (19) 18
Zelig 1983  47 29 (2) 12
Broadway Danny Rose 1984  48 25 (17) 17
The Purple Rose of Cairo 1985  49 23 (22) 19
Hannah and Her Sisters 1986  50 84 181 3
Radio Days 1987  51 29 (1) 11
September 1987  51 1 (97) 39
Another Woman 1988  52 3 (90) 37
Crimes and Misdemeanors 1989  53 36 21 8
Alice 1990  54 14 (54) 25
Shadows and Fog 1992  56 5 (83) 33
Husbands and Wives 1992  56 20 (33) 21
Manhattan Murder Mystery 1993  57 21 (28) 20
Bullets Over Broadway 1994  58 25 (16) 16
Mighty Aphrodite 1995  59 12 (61) 27
Everyone Says I Love You 1996  60 17 (44) 24
Deconstructing Harry 1997  61 18 (40) 22
Celebrity 1998  62 8 (72) 29
Sweet and Lowdown 1999  63 6 (79) 31
Small Time Crooks 2000  64 25 (16) 15
The Curse of the Jade Scorpion 2001  65 10 (65) 28
Hollywood Ending 2002  66 6 (78) 30
Anything Else 2003  67 4 (86) 35
Melinda and Melinda 2005  69 5 (84) 34
Match Point 2005  69 28 (7) 13
Scoop 2006  70 13 (58) 26
Cassandra's Dream 2008  72 1 (96) 38
Vicky Cristina Barcelona 2008  72 25 (15) 14
Whatever Works 2009  73 6 (81) 32
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger 2010  74 3 (89) 36
Midnight in Paris 2011  75 55 86 7
To Rome with Love 2012  76 17 (44) 23

We are missing box office data for his early comedies like Take the Money and Run.

Before those, he was a joke-writing prodigy making thousands of dollars per week as a teenager in the mid-1950s. It took him longer to develop as a stand-up comic, then as a movie star and director, getting started in movies just before turning 30.

His comedies in the first half of the 1970s like Sleeper did consistently well, then he peaked with Annie Hall and Manhattan in the late 1970s when he was in his early 40s.

True fact: as originally filmed, Annie Hall was a two hour and 20 minute murder mystery. Allen's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, convinced him to dump the entire crime plot (which was resurrected years later in Manhattan Murder Mystery), add some voice-over, and voila, he had a short romantic comedy. Although Annie Hall won the Oscar for Best Picture, Rosenblum wasn't even nominated for Best Editing. (Granted, Star Wars won, and deserved to win, Best Editing, but still ...)

Hannah and Her Sisters in 1986 was a big peak, followed by Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1991. Then he made 21 straight movies that failed to reach his mean, which has to be some kind of record.

My impression is that Allen doesn't run over budget, so his financial backers know that although they will probably lose money, their losses will be limited. So, they are more patrons than investors, but they also have a chance of making a profit. So, funding a Woody Allen movie is like buying a ticket in a charity raffle. And, Allen's prestige and popularity with Oscar voters means that big movie stars will work in his films cheap, so his patrons get extra vicarious glamor from dropping a quite finite amount of money on his projects.

And then, just when it seemed completely hopeless, at age 75 he made 2011's very entertaining Midnight in Paris.

64 comments:

Percy said...

IMHO I think Vicky is on par with his great movies of the late 70s and early 80s.All his movies made in the 90s sucked.

He should have given up his New York infatuation much earlier.

Z-Dog said...

Some of his later movies, including Vicky, Match Point, and Midnight, were as good as his earlier movies. I don't think he opens on as many screens as he once did though, and in general, non-blockbuster movies are enjoyed more on Netflix than in theaters.

peterike said...

You have to admire a guy who managed to turn a career into a hobby which nevertheless continued to be a career. Not easy.

I wonder how much money he makes on these films that nobody goes to see?

Kingo Gondo said...

You fail to mention several points.

The average movie-going American nowadays is substantially younger and/or dumber than in the 70s.

While a quality audience still exists, they are watching cable, renting/buying DVDs or streaming Netflix, Amazon or whatever. I literally have 650 movies (legally) sitting on two HDs attached to my Dish Network DVR--plus about 100 (wild guess) DVDs I have yet to watch.

In other words, comparing 70s BO to 10s BO is a highly incomplete analysis.

Anonymous said...

I think MatchPoint was a really good movie too. Better than Midnight in Paris even.

Anonymous said...

Broadway Danny Rose was pretty funny too. Was that in the 90´s?

Steve Sailer said...

"You have to admire a guy who managed to turn a career into a hobby which nevertheless continued to be a career."

Good line. I plan to steal it while reviewing yet another Woody Allen movie in 2029.

AllanF said...

As one turning 40 this year, I like where you're going with these recent posts. And don't laugh, as a software developer that's like 62 in human years. :-)

What about you, Steve. You're not hitting double-nickels or something are you? ;^)

Anthony said...

It really looks like he made 5 big movies, then just started cranking them out, without really trying to give them mass appeal.

Anonymous said...

John Simon's takedown of MANHATTAN is vicious but bull's eye. MANHATTAN is kinda fun to watch but a thoroughly dishonest film, a work of vain megalomania and narcissism pretending otherwise with feigns of half-assed self-mockery. The self-mockery is part of the megalomania, i.e. he's courageous to admit that he's full of BS.
The real truth of Allen came out with the Soon Yi affair, and it was neither funny or racy. Just pathetic.

Anonymous said...

In other words, comparing 70s BO to 10s BO is a highly incomplete analysis.

Who wants to compare body odor of the decades anyway?

chucho said...

It'd be interesting to see global box-office, since a large part of his audience is in Europe, but I'd expect to see the same arc anyway.

I expect his entire career to be re-appraised after he passes. A few of the 80's movies (Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose) are up there with his best but suffer from the taint of the decade.

A good case can be made that "Bullets Over Broadway" is the dividing line in his career. There are a few decent ones after that but it's mostly been a downward spiral since then.

Anonymous said...

The arc of Allen's career follows that of many Jewish 'auteurs' in the late 60s and 70s.
Mike Nichols loved 8 1/2 so much that he fired someone on the set of THE GRADUATE for criticizing it.
Paul Mazursky made his version of 8 1/2 with the dreary ALEX IN WONDERLAND.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwKmk1WSJuE

It was as if all these Jewish-Americans directors had a kind of Euro-envy. As American Jewish directors, they felt they weren't serious or substantial enough. They were good at jokes and funny stuff, but maybe they lacked vision, gravitas, and etc.
And so, they both envied and worshiped European masters like Bergman, Antonioni, Godard, Truffaut, Fellini, Rohmer, and etc. They too wanted to be 'artists' or 'auteurs'. They didn't just wanna be entertainers. It's like a whole bunch of pop stars in the 60s wanted their music to be 'art' or 'personal expression'. Dylan too was channeling European influences in poetry such as Rimbaud, Eliot and Pound(though one could argue they were American), and etc. (But if Dylan was looking to the past, the Jewish filmmakers were looking at the contemporary scene and felt they were being left in the dust by Europeans). Sidney Lumet made PAWNBROKER that drew heavily from the works of Resnais.

This was a time when American Jews still had a kind of inferiority complex. American Jews felt European Emigre Jews(especially of German background) had more weight. American Jewish tradition was Marx Brothers; European Jewish tradition was Marx. American Jewish tradition was Dorothy Parker(though half-Jewish). European Jewish tradition was Hannah Arendt.
American Jews were more successful but felt intellectually and culturally inferior. Jews also felt inferiority vis-a-vis the established Wasp community--that would so fascinate Allen in his 70s/80s films. Wasps may be cold or repressed but they were serious and respectable in ways that grubby American Jews were not.

And it seemed as though European masters were making real art films whereas American Jews in Hollywood were making silly movies.
So, there was a certain slavishness among guys like Nichols, Allen, Mazursky, Fosse, and others to imitate the Europeans. Some of the results were good: GRADUATE, UNMARRIED WOMAN(a kind of American Rohmer/Truffaut film), ALL THAT JAZZ(maybe the only successful riff on 8 1/2),and CRIMES AND MISDEANORS(Allen's one artistically successful serious film; shockingly, even Simon liked it, and called it one of the most of courageous films of recent yrs on the nature of evil.)

But as the European art cinema and the 'film generation' faded--and as American Jews gained greater confidence and power about what they were--, European-art-cinema-ism fell by the wayside. Also, film critic community began to argue that Hitchcock, Ford, Preston Sturges, and even Sam Fuller were as good or even better artists than those SERIOUS Europeans. Bergman was especially overshadowed. He had two films in Sight and Sound top ten in 1972 but none since.

So, Europeanisms fell by the wayside as American Jewish directors found their own language and voice, their own confidence. And as wasps declined in power, they were less fascinating to guys like Allen. Allen used to sort of look up to them; he liked their women especially. But we now are living in the age of MADMEN, when wasps are treated as empty suits open to mockery.

Anonymous said...

For some directors, gaining their own Jewish voice and style was a plus. This was especially true of Lumet, whose PAWNBROKER is unwatchable. But his later films like DOG DAY AFTERNOON and PRINCE OF THE CITY are great stuff.
And it was a good thing too with Allen as his Europeanisms were amusing at best--in stuff like STARDUST MEMORIES--and pretentious and phony at their worst. ANOTHER WOMAN, a ham-fisted attempt at WILD STRAWBERRIES.

But Nichols fared badly. His best works are still the Europeanish GRADUATE, CATCH-22, and CARNAL KNOWLEDGE. His later films range from adequate to unwatchable. (To be sure, the reason why Graduate, Catch 22, and Carnal Knowledge work so well is because Nichols didn't entirely abandon his Jewishness but needled it into the Euro-style fabric. In contrast, Allen tried to bury his very Jewishness in stuff like INTERIORS, ANOTHER WOMAN, and some other stuff that are insufferable.)

Allen made some great comedies in the early 70s. ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN have their moments but seem dated and phony now. The art cinema mannerisms and comedy shtick cancel eachother out, as if Allen is trying to have it both ways: win respect as a serious artist but also pretend he's just joking about the whole business. There's too much strain for it to work as comedy and too much goofery to work as 'art film'.

Allen's best film for me is BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, which struck the perfect balance between comedy and pathos(and without the artsy fartsy stuff). His best comeback movie is MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY, which gets better and better with each viewing. And it's good to see Allen riffing on Hitchcock than on the Europeans. It's like he finally made peace with what he is, with Hollywood and Jewishess and NY. He's not pretending to be America's Bergman or a Jewish Antonioni or Fellini. One of the great things about Hitchcock was his ease about being an entertainer; he didn't feel he had to be an ARTIST to make films worthy of serious consideration. And Allen discovered that ease with MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY. Like BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, it maintains just the right balance between real emotions and comedy.
It works wonderfully as spoof but also on the psychological level BECAUSE ALLEN DOESN'T PUSH TOO HARD. The psychological undertones just flow naturally than are foisted upon us with heavy meaning. We know that the wife(Keaton) is going through a middle-age crisis and fears that her husband may be interested in another woman, and so, she projects her own fears onto the old Jewish couple down the hall. The sort of stuff Hitchcock did many times. Allen does it with a smile and lots of fun, but there's something to think about as well. In many cases, the best ideas simply flow from a good story and fine execution of details. One doesn't have to strain or do heavylifting with symbolism or testament about the 'human condition' to make a point. And in that sense, I partly agree with those who rate Hitchcock over Bergman. Bergman was the purer artist, but he sometimes pushed his themes too hard, as if his films were meant to be shown in a church or something.

Allen's list of films serves as a chronological map of how Jewish attitudes and sensibilities changed over the yrs.

Anonymous said...

i liked small time crooks, sweet&lowdown, bullets & aphrodite. later works such as vicky scoop matchpoint & midnight are great too.

the woodman is at his best when hes with a muse; keaton, farrow, johansson

Nostalgic Futurist said...

The problem with Woody Allen is basically that he makes one film every year, he should make one every ten years.

I think his last good movie was Deconstructing Harry, although thinking back even that wasn't that good. Midnight in Paris was fun, not great, but at least a change from his dreary work in the 2000s. However, then he followed it with the stupid Rome one.

I agree with the Anonymous about re: Bergman vs Allen and European auteur envy, nice comment.

Anonymous said...

I'd REALLY like to see Woody Allen play Patton in a remake. He looks JUST like the real Patton (give or take large pistols, uniforms, other furbishments). George C Scott, fine actor, did not. Woody Allen talks like the real Patton- give or take their favorite subjects. Fast, high-pitched voices, both smart hustlers who know their subjects backwards and forwards.

Both men humped anything concave, too. The remake won't have to reach to find some sex scenes.

Anonymous said...

Woody Allen popularized the Jewish fantasy of a geeky Jewish guy hooking up with a hot Shiksa. For a more contemporary example of this, see the character of Howard Wolowitz on Big Bang Theory; a diminutive Jewish nerd who lives with his mother, yet manages to marry an attractive blond Gentile biologist. The creator of Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre, is Jewish, by the way.

Whitehall said...

Allen playing Patton? Uh?

Patton was the little rich Anglo kid from SoCal - Allen was the little poor Jew from New York City - perfect match if you have the imagination.

OK, it would take a great actor to pull that off.

Allen's films break down into ones that he is the star and ones where he is not to be seen.

He did alright slowning in his earliest films but one quickly got to hate seeing him on screen.

Anonymous said...

How about Harlon Ellison as patton?

DaveinHackensack said...

"I think MatchPoint was a really good movie too. Better than Midnight in Paris even."

Agreed. Completely different movies (and I haven't seen all of Allen's), but I'd put it second only to Annie Hall. I'm surprised it didn't make more at the box office. I'd say it was one of the best half dozen movies I've seen over the last decade.

"Allen made some great comedies in the early 70s. ANNIE HALL and MANHATTAN have their moments but seem dated and phony now."

Annie Hall is still hilarious and doesn't seem phony at all. How could it? Keaton (née Hall) and Allen had dated in real life. As for dated, sure: New York was a "dying city" and Los Angeles was sparkling clean.

IMO, Annie Hall was the best comedy of the 1970s. Moonstruck was the best of the '80s, I'd say, and it seems less dated than Annie Hall, because of the more flattering way it filmed New York.

Anonymous said...

"I'd REALLY like to see Woody Allen play Patton in a remake."

Around that time, Kubrick was planning to make a film about Napoleon. PATTON was a big hit, so maybe studios should have given the red light on NAPOLEON.

DaveinHackensack said...

"How about Harlon Ellison as patton?"

Ellison would have to tone down his cockiness a little to play Patton.

"It was as if all these Jewish-Americans directors had a kind of Euro-envy."

How does Kubrick fit into that theory?

David B said...

Disappointing to see 'Sweet and Lowdown' so low in the rankings. I would put this among Woody's best 5 films. Vastly better than Match Point or Vicky Christina Barcelona.

Anonymous said...

"How does Kubrick fit into that theory?"

He was in a league all by himself. He didn't follow trends or fashions. He had his own vision from beginning to end, a vision that was bigger than Jewish, American, British, etc.
A titan among titans.

Anonymous said...

When you say "current dollars", do you mean "constant dollars"? Current dollars are non-inflation-unadjusted dollars. But it makes more sense to use inflation-adjusted, constant dollars.

Cennbeorc

Lucius said...

Well, there are dollars and there are "movie dollars". It's been about ten years since I read a Woody bio that listed the "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" box office figures and converted them into +$100mil figures "today", so they may top out even a bit higher.

For any sort of "comedy" those were stellar numbers.

He's as spartan as Clint Eastwood when it comes to takes, so it's very unlikely he's ever given his backers Kubrickian terrors.

After following most of his new millennium films in the theatre (I saw "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger" twice, so I count for about a tenth of that gross), I had the summer flu and missed "Midnight in Paris", and still haven't seen it.

That said, I hail "Match Point" and idiosyncratically adore "Scoop". VCB is wonderful too.

--Back to that "movie dollars" question, though. How does that work with budgets? For instance, "Heaven's Gate" cost about $36mil and bankrupted UA. Clearly, Cimino put that money "on the screen", even if he did fifty takes of everything. Ten years later, "The Godfather Part III" was beset by rumors of costing $100mil, which Coppola denied--more like $50mil. That's a reasonable figure for a big epic like that; twice that suggests epic profligacy. Another seven years and "Titanic" costs more than $200mil, the new epic profligacy.

Are what Hollywood considers big budgets and big grosses growing in tandem, or are they separate metrics? Probably Hollywood sees budgets subjectively. Warren Beatty's "Reds" may have cost much more than "Heaven's Gate", but Beatty had more friends than Cimino, so they didn't complain, they just washed the books. "Heaven's Gate" is populist and proto-Marxist, but "Reds" is full-on Socialist, and "The Deer Hunter" looked right-wing.

Francis Coppola's never forgiven the press for harassing him about the "Apocalypse Now" budget, when "Superman" and "Moonraker", films about nothing, cost more.

Anonymous said...

Loved Hemingway in Midnight in Paris.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

""How does Kubrick fit into that theory?""

He was in a league all by himself. He didn't follow trends or fashions. He had his own vision from beginning to end, a vision that was bigger than Jewish, American, British, etc.

A titan among titans."

I agree. Kubrick was a singular director. There is nobody else like him.

William Friedkin was also a jewish director whose movies didn't seem to have any particular ethnic baggage. In fact he made what is probably one of the most stridently catholic films ever made by Hollywood - the Exorcist. It was a pity his career blew up, because he was quite talented. He was done in by "Sorceror" which went way over budget, and then never made back the investment because it was smothered by "Star Wars" (I still remember the "coming to this theater" trailer for Sorceror shown before Star Wars - Star Wars stayed, and Sorceror never came at all).

I had always liked Allen's straight-up comedies from the early 70s, like "Take the Money and Run" and "Sleeper". Like most comedy, it doesn't age all that well, but some of it is still funny. His later films got to be too self-conscious and narcissistic, and seemed to be mostly targeted at a female audience.

I would much prefer to watch an old Friedkin (The French Connection, Sorceror) or Lumet (The Anderson Tapes, Serpico, Network) picture than one by Allen.

Anonymous said...

I may be alone in not liking "Midnight in Paris". It seemed like a long, lazy, and ultimately unimaginative exercise in name-checking to me. Look, there's Gertrude Stein! Look, there's Papa! I felt like I was being asked to laugh just for recognizing Fitzgerald. Allen didn't do much with the artists beyond mentioning their names and tossing out a few stereotypical lines.

I like Owen Wilson a lot, but he doesn't have the energy to carry a movie on his own. He's better as the counterpoint to a more articulate lead.

Steve Sailer said...

That's a fair criticism of "Midnight in Paris." It's not deep at all. But it is a highly pleasant 90 minutes.

DaveinHackensack said...

Anon and Mr. Anon:

Agreed about Kubrick. 2001 in particular was the best sci fi movie up to that point (and arguably, the best ever), and after Kubrick makes it, that's it for him and the genre. On to the next thing. I think that's when he decided to move to London permanently too.

Re Friedkin, I didn't know he was Jewish. The Exorcist was excellent -- probably the best horror movie ever, and one of the top 5 movies of the 70s. It has something in common with 2001: both movies start with a long, (almost, in the case of The Exorcist) dialog-free sequence, that looks nothing like the rest of the movie. 2001 has the Dawn of Man, and The Exorcist has that great opening with Father Merrin in Iraq.

When they released the director's cut of The Exorcist in 2000 (I think), I took a girl I knew from Seattle to see it in New York. We had driven up from Baltimore, and after we got to NYC and had dinner, we caught a midnight showing of it. Everyone else in the theater was black, and the folks right behind us were talking through the movie. So I got up and asked them to stop, and then an usher came over and stood watching them from the wings, and they toned it down a bit. But one of them actually said something funny at one point.

As you know, Jason Miller's priest/psychiatrist character is a skeptic, who initially discounts any evidence that something supernatural is involved in Regan's condition. Then there's that scene where the au pair or whatever she is calls him over and opens Regan's shirt, and we see the words "HELP ME" appear on her belly as hives. At that moment, one of the African American young men behind us yelled out to the screen, "NOW do you believe she's possessed, you dumb motherfucker?"

Udolpho.com said...

I really thought Midnight in Paris was shit. Very lazy, very self-indulgent.

john marzan said...

Wish Woody Allen would make a movie set in Los Angeles.

Steve Sailer said...

The Los Angeles section of "Annie Hall" (with a young Jeff Goldblum placing an emergency call to his spiritual therapist: "I forgot my mantra!) might be the funniest satire ever on this much satirized city.

ben tillman said...

Where's Bananas?

WMarkW said...

Comedy is a tough field to keep going in, because you eventually run out of material. Bob Hope was once a cutting-edge comedian, but by the 1970's he was doing walk-on TV specials reading cue cards, and getting laughs only for the costumes he wore on stage. Rodney Dangerfield is my favorite comedian of my lifetime, largely I suspect, because he didn't start doing it full time until his mid-40s.

Mr. Anon said...

"DaveinHackensack said...

Agreed about Kubrick. 2001 in particular was the best sci fi movie up to that point (and arguably, the best ever), and after Kubrick makes it, that's it for him and the genre. On to the next thing. I think that's when he decided to move to London permanently too."

I believe he moved to England after making Lolita. Doctor Strangelove was filmed entirely in England (save for a few exterior shots).

peterike said...

Something to be said in Allen's favor, no matter the quality of his films.

1 - There is almost always an attractive woman or two in the mix.

2 - He almost never has blacks in his movies. He still shows us a virtually all white world and hasn't given in to the Hollywood fetishizing of blacks. Funny coming from a guy who is such a quintessential SWPL in almost every other way.

Anonymous said...

Woodsy Allen?

You know, I like his films except for that nervous fellow that's always in them.

Anonymous said...

Play It Again Sam, from around 1970, about a nerdy Jew's infatuation w/ Humphrey Bogart, is a wonderful movie, that sums up so much about what is good about Allen's comedy. Just wanted to mention it, becuase nobody else has. That and Annie Hall are his two best.

elvisd said...

I used to listen to his comedy double album from the sixties when I was 11 years old and I remember it as being hilarious: no curse words, very little that could be called risque, just good, funny storytelling, most of it very clean. It was very New York Jew, of course, but it was so well done that I could at least get most of the humor. Of course, being already exposed to Mad Magazine, I was already familiar with that style of Jewish humor.

elvisd said...

Speaking of Mad, has anyone ever made the connection of that magazine with early 20th century European sophisticate cultural movements like Dada and Surrealism, both of which had strong Jewish involvement? That would be a "continental" influence. The Harvey Kurtzman era Mad was the most off-the-wall stuff ever.

Anonymous said...

"I like his films except for that nervous fellow that's always in them."

It's put-on nervousness, a shtick that would have us believe that Allen is filled with doubt, questions, and etc. It distracts us from Allen's vanity and ego. Makes us think, 'what a harmless Jew in need of pity'.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Allen partly write and act in The Front?

Jews are still using fronts--goy toys--to push their agenda from behind the curtain.

Anonymous said...

Midnight in Paris is remake of Purple Rose of Cairo with a guy and high culture instead of girl and movies; it's also Allen's Back to the Future.

The problem is when wasps play his alter ego, it just looks stupid, just as it would be stupid for Allen to play the alter ego of a wasp.

Anonymous said...

I didn't care for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS but it's probably the best summation of Allen as an 'artist'. It's about dislocations and displacements, and Allen has been defined by them--it's fitting that one of his earliest film ventures was WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY where he used a Japanese gangster film as a 'front' for his Jewish-American wit. The result is so Japanese and American at the same time.

MIDNIGHT IN PARIS is a film of dislocation and displacement.

1. Wasp and Jew thing. Allen often used waspy characters to convey and give class/appeal to his Jewish neurosis. Michael Caine in HANNAH. Kenneth Branagh is his dreary CELEBRITIES, his version of LA DOLCE VITA.
But Allen also tried to channel the cold intellect of the Northern European soul, and this could be of Bergman or American wasps. My guess he was attracted to Bergman for his cold Nordicness which Allen matched with American wasps of East Coast. But as Bergman was a weirdo, a kind of Swedish Jew(spiritually), he was also a kin-spirit of Allen. Bergman didn't really fit into Swedish society, and Allen often felt at odds with Jewish America. Bergman wanted to be more Jewishy(in SHAME, the man is supposed to be Jewish, Carradine is Jewish in Serpent's Egg, Elliot Gould was in The Touch, and there is a prominent Jew in FANNY AND ALEXANDER), and Allen wanted to be more waspy.
Also, both dealt with the issue of WWII and Holocaust mostly through indirection. Bergman used a Holocaust photo in PERSONA, and SERPENT'S EGG takes place in Germany before the rise of Nazis, but Bergman never wanted to go there and deal directly with the event; he referred to it obliquely. And me thinks part of the appeal of MIDNIGHT IS PARIS is it happens in Europe before WWII when everything changed. Before WWII, even antisemitism wasn't so serious. Hemingway often said nasty stuff about Jews, but it was just part of the culture, not an evil plan. (Even Gertrude Stein said nasty stuff about Jews.) The modernism of that period was both highly sophisticated and innocent. No one predicted the shit that would hit the fan. So, MIDNIGHT could partly be a what-if rumination. Though there is no mention of WWII and Holocaust, the nostalgia for the period before the bad stuff happened brings it to attention by indirection.

2. Allen has been both a man of his time and out of his time. He was part of the Zeitgeist in the 60s and 70s. Even so, his musical passion was early jazz, not late jazz or rock n roll. Though a subversive 60s personality, he had great fondness for the radio days of a more innocent America. He hated the rock counter culture. Allen has said he finds rock music barbaric. So, Allen was as much a man out of time as of his time. As he grew older, looked to the past. But he also wanted to remain relevant and fresh. The odd thing about MIDNIGHT is it both looks forward and back. Allen, now an old man, is trying to understand young lovers today. But he takes the young lover to a historical/cultural period that most young people today don't care or know about. Thus, there is a kind of double-dislocation. Allen embraces the young but takes the young to events and places even before Allen's time.

Some old filmmakers just look to the past, and some young filmmakers stick to the present. Allen is now an old filmmaker making movies for young people but looking to the past. The feeling is weird, and if Allen were a truly great director, he could have made something truly remarkable. But in film, he's more like Neil Simon than Luis Bunuel.

3. America and Europe. For some time, Allen has been more appreciated in Europe than in America. Allen has been very American-Jewish but also very admiring of European 'high culture' and 'art cinema'. So, Allen feels displaced both in NY and in Europe. His NY has often been almost Europe-ish, and his Europe is almost like an extension of Jewish-Americana.

DaveinHackensack said...

"The problem is when wasps play his alter ego, it just looks stupid, just as it would be stupid for Allen to play the alter ego of a wasp."

Luke Wilson did alright in the movie, but he might be a little too likeable for the Woody role, but not because he's a WASP. Taylor Nichols would make a great Woody alter ego (think of his work for Whit Stillman in Barcelona, for example).

DaveinHackensack said...

"Wasp and Jew thing. Allen often used waspy characters to convey and give class/appeal to his Jewish neurosis. Michael Caine in HANNAH."

You ever think he's just going for the best actor for the role? I mean, let's say he were going to pick a Jewish actor for that role -- who would he have picked? Maybe there aren't that many Jewish actors who can play the Woody role? Allen cast Jason Biggs (from American Pie) in a movie 10 years ago, but Biggs is a non-Jew who plays a lot of Jewish roles.

"Also, both dealt with the issue of WWII and Holocaust mostly through indirection."

I don't think Midnight in Paris deals with WWII and the Holocaust at all. Allen's character does drag Annie Hall to see The Sorrow and the Pity in Annie Hall though.

Anonymous said...

For some time, Allen has been more appreciated in Europe than in America. Allen has been very American-Jewish but also very admiring of European 'high culture' and 'art cinema'. So, Allen feels displaced both in NY and in Europe. His NY has often been almost Europe-ish, and his Europe is almost like an extension of Jewish-Americana.

What about Asia? Do Asians appreciate Woody Allen, or are the fine points of his humour too foreign for that audience?

ben tillman said...

Didn't Allen partly write and act in The Front?

Jews are still using fronts--goy toys--to push their agenda from behind the curtain.


As Allen said in Antz: "Why don't we just influence their political proces with campaign contributions?"

Peter the Shark said...

"Funny coming from a guy who is such a quintessential SWPL in almost every other way."

No, Woody Allen is, and has always been, anti-SWPL. As far back as the early 70s he was mocking SWPL narcissism. Go look at the list on the "Stuff White People Like" -it is mostly stuff Allen has actually mocked - yoga,vegetarianism, 3rd worldism, running, natural medicine,organic food, etc. The only real SWPL thing Allen can be accused of liking is "Asian Girls". Allen is a vanishing breed of cynical Jewish middle class kid who simultaneously loves, hates and envies WASP high culture. We will never see another Woody Allen because the Jewish generation after Allen knocked the old WASP elite off the pedestal. The outsider shtick of Allen or Mel Brooks no longer makes any sense.

Peter the Shark said...

I used to listen to his comedy double album from the sixties when I was 11 years old and I remember it as being hilarious:

Yeah, "The Moose" is a classic comedy bit.

Hal Salt said...

I'm nearly 40, and I can't think of a single Woody Allen film that I've seen. I haven't really had time to watch hardly any movies since the kids came along, but even back when I was watching them with some regularity, there was always something else that seemed like it was going to be more entertaining to me.

Anonymous said...

"You ever think he's just going for the best actor for the role?"

But the characters are so Jewishy that it looks/sounds weird for waspy types to play them.

If Allen had created waspy characters, that'd be a different story. Instead, he often feeds Jewishy lines to waspy actors. Wilson acts Allenish, and it just feels all wrong.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that Ezra Pound failed to make an apperance in MIP, considering his prominent, and positive treatment in A Movable Feast...and considering Allen's classic jewish obsession--i.e., antisemitism.

josh said...

Re DaveinHackensack who saw The Exorcist in an all black movie theatre:Why would you want to shut them up? Having "vibrant" commentary on a movie seems to be getting twice the entertainment value for your ticket. (I saw the Joan Crawford bio years after it came out,and discovered what all the fuss was about. I thought,to have seen this movie in a theatre full of gays? Hysterical.) Maybe DVD's should come with an option of an all-black audience commentary.

Charlesz Martel said...

I thought that "Midnight in Paris" was a decent film, but only because of the little touches- seeing Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Stein, etc. Marion Cotillard is way overrated, in my view. But frankly, I think this movie might just be the most miscast Allen movie ever. Surfer dude Owen Wilson as a serious intellectual obsessed with 1920's Paris intellectual life? With his airhead wife? The guy who played his friend would have been a much better choice for the lead. The girl's parents were well cast, and the historical figures, but Owen Wilson is simply a light comic actor/empty suit. Allen himself, with a much younger wife (Soon-Yi?) would have been a much better casting choice. Wilson simply cannot portray introspection, which is a critical component of virtually ALL of Allen's films.

Mr. Anon said...

"What about Asia? Do Asians appreciate Woody Allen, or are the fine points of his humour too foreign for that audience?"

To paraphrase Trotsky: "Asians may not be interested in Woody Allen, but Woody Allen is interested in Asians".

DaveinHackensack said...

"If Allen had created waspy characters, that'd be a different story. Instead, he often feeds Jewishy lines to waspy actors."

If you mean "Jewishy" qua Jewishy, than yeah, that wouldn't work except for comic effect (e.g., the post-conversion Tim Whatley character in Seinfeld). But what you are referring to as "Jewishy" is really just neuroticism, which isn't exclusive to Jews. Taylor Nichols, who I mentioned above, has played neurotic WASPs in Whit Stillman films.

DaveinHackensack said...

Josh,

"Why would you want to shut them up? Having "vibrant" commentary on a movie seems to be getting twice the entertainment value for your ticket."

It depends what sort of entertainment experience you want. If you want to be immersed in a film, and feel the emotions the filmmaker intended (horror, or awe, etc.), then you wouldn't want the commentary. That was my companion's first time seeing the Exorcist, so I think she wanted that. I'd seen it a bunch of times, so I found some humor in that comment I mentioned.

DaveinHackensack said...

"To paraphrase Trotsky: "Asians may not be interested in Woody Allen, but Woody Allen is interested in Asians"."

Mr. Anon wins the thread. Always nice when someone adds a little wit to the mix.

Anonymous said...

"Something to be said in Allen's favor, no matter the quality of his films.

1 - There is almost always an attractive woman or two in the mix.

2 - He almost never has blacks in his movies. He still shows us a virtually all white world and hasn't given in to the Hollywood fetishizing of blacks. Funny coming from a guy who is such a quintessential SWPL in almost every other way."



While,at the same time, viciously,nastily,smugly, portraying Whites/WASPs as awfully as possible - "Annie Hall"( Heartland Whites ), "Whatever Works"( Southern Whites ),just to name a few, not to mention his worship / slobbering over Obama. It's as if he's saying "No ,I don't have many,if any,Blacks in my films,but don't worry,I know you hate Whites just as badly as I and other Jews do, so,I'll portray Whites as awfully as possible,so it will even out."

Martel732

Anonymous said...

"Awful" characters are also complex characters, and those are the kinds of meaty roles that talented White actors like to play. It's probably as much a means of enticing talent to participate for a pittance as it is an expression of anti-White animus.