I’ve spent all these years without any influence from Woody Allen. The first real exposure was in my short story class two semesters ago, where I got bored with the inane prattle and senseless argumentation in the class, and decided to read one of his short stories, “The Kugelmass Episode.” It was very good – surprisingly good even. It was a story about man that gets inserted into the novel Madame Bovary in order to have an affair on his real life wife and had a tick of metafiction in that classes reading the book around the country noticed this strange character addition. He had a great lithe approach to humor in writing. I appreciated it as a novice writer.
The other day at the library I stumbled on his Academy Award winning movie Annie Hall and decided to give it a whirl. I was in the mood for something light, something reputed to have helped propel a lot of the modern romantic comedies.
Bad movie. First off, how Allen writes and what pops up as dialogue are two different things. The inflection of humor comes off too wooden (no pun intended) and too fast and too self conscious. He knows that his characters have to have these strange humorous neuroses and they have to have them just so. The script tried so gosh darn hard, and with that, fell flat onto itself.
I think another main irritation was to create this notion of criticizing the intellectual elite (whether they were socially-accepted elite or self-actualized elite) and yet speaking to the audience in the same sort of marked speech. Without acknowledging that, in effect, the characters are using these same terms, in order to reduce the cleft given to this elite, just makes them sound as pompous as those they criticize. Hypocritical, I say. Here’s a sampling, even though I have to say I love the punch line:
Allison: I’m in the midst of doing my thesis.
Alvin Singer: On what?
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature.
Alvin Singer: You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
Alvin Singer: Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left.
I loved Diane Keaton’s outfits. This really was a good part of the movie. Her character made me go out and buy a dress for Chicago after I watched the movie. I wanted a nice hippy number just like hers and came out with a swank little cocktail-ish type dress. Go figure.
My final complaint with it is that it struck too hard at some sensitive spots for me. I’ve dated an Alvin Singer. Instead of Singer’s therapist, I got insanely proud comments of anti-depressant use. [Which I don’t have anything against per se, but instead of that being a happenstance to who he was and that it helped him, it somewhat became what defined who he was as a whole person.] And instead of an über fear toward commitment, I got an über elation toward commitment, but with the same sort of passion. Singer had the same pontification, the same hairy back…the same…
Except Alvin Singer had a lot of damn sex. And maybe, just maybe, that’s all I’m really upset with – neurotic Alvin Singer at least gave a lot more play than any action I ever saw with my neurotic ex and I’m just a whole lot of bitter.