One of my good friends lives in San Francisco and we disagreed slightly over Woody Allen’s new picture “Blue Jasmine”, which takes place in San Francisco. He felt that the Woodman went out of his way to make San Francisco look bad and did not photograph it in the usual glamorous light that he illustrates The Big Apple.
I disagreed with him and stated that although Woody Allen has an obvious disdain for Los Angeles (check out this scene in Annie Hall if you do not believe me)
Compare that scene with his unforgettable opening montage that I consider the greatest love letter to New York City ever put on film in Gordon Willis’ glorious black and white photography and booming to the sounds of George Gershwin.
As Woody states in that narration, “New York was his town and it always will be”. This is true yet Woody Allen adores New York, another town across the continent has embraced him. Los Angeles and in particular the Hollywood community have recently rekindled their admiration for Woody Allen’s storytelling with his hugely successful 2011 film Midnight in Paris and it has continued with 2013’s deep and emotional melodrama Blue Jasmine.
Allen, a stranger to award shows yet never a stranger to receiving critical praise and acclaim had won a total of four Oscars starting back in 1977 when Allen’s little romantic comedy scored a major surprise win over Star Wars winning both best picture and best director. Allen himself was not there since he was rehearsing with his jazz band (another signature of a Woody Allen movie, seldom will you find music in them made after World War II).
Yet now Allen is back in the center of controversy based on accusations from his adopted son and stepdaughter that he had with his former partner Mia Farrow. I do not want to rehash what has already been said but I will instead ask you read this article http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast.html by Robert Weide to update yourself on the facts. Weide obviously has a bias since he spent so much time with Allen making his PBS documentary but I do feel his article does encapsulate the facts about Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Soon-Yi Previn and their tumultuous and very public break-up.
My point is this, Woody Allen is a great filmmaker, has been ever since before his massively successful Annie Hall and at the rate that he is going will continue to make very good pictures well into his 80’s (Allen himself is 78 years old and last years Blue Jasmine was undeniably one of the years best films). He has been resilient through ups and downs, hits and failures, but Woody like many celebrities has some issues and skeletons in his closet. I always try to be very good at separating the artist from the man.
Whether Michael Jackson was a pedophile or not, the world may never know. Jackson did put himself in certain situations that raised questions and was not the best at defending himself or his lifestyle when accusations arose. However, one cannot deny the great importance of Michael Jackson as an artist. In fact he may be one of the single greatest entertainers of all time if you measure his impact on MTV, live performances and all the musicians that have followed in his footsteps in virtually every genre. If you need to proof of Jackson’s legacy, last nights Super Bowl performance by Bruno Mars would not have been possible if it were not for Michael Jacksons in 1993
From that performance twenty-one years ago to Bruno Mars last night and everyone in between the Super Bowl halftime show is the spectacle it is because of Michael Jackson. The same can be said for Woody Allen’s contributions to cinema. From his great roles for women as Diane Keaton pointed out at the Golden Globes last month, to his poignant and incisive screenplays that can capture depth and emotion and drama in one minute followed by humorous segments that make audiences laugh out loud. Woody Allen has for nearly half a century left an indelible mark on motion pictures. His signature style is low key from his opening credits with that Windsor font (I looked up what it was he should really trademark it as the Woody Allen-credit font) to his long takes with a still camera like in Manhattan or knowing when to move the camera at just the right time as he did in Hannah and Her Sisters or just littering the scene with jump cuts like he did in his cathartic Deconstructing Harry.
His impact on cinema around the world cannot be taken for granted, all great writers of both comedy and drama owe a lot to the mind and words of Woody Allen. Any romantic and situational comedy made since the later 1970’s probably has some slight influence from Woody Allen’s work. But he is more than just comedy. Allen’s films can go to darker, steamier, melodramatic tones as he has shown in some of his finest work like Another Woman, Match Point and most recently Blue Jasmine. Woody is so adept at both comedy and drama sometimes he switches between them in the same film with equal success. Check out Crimes and Misdemeanors to see him master both dramatic and intense scenes dealing with murder and adultery with hilarious and always heartfelt comedy.
Woody Allen loves New York and the film world should rightfully embrace and be thankful for the contributions of Woody Allen. Regardless of his personal life, which has been sprinkled with controversy for over two decades, I implore you to separate the artist from the man. I am glad he is not my father or adopted father, husband or romantic partner. But I will forever be grateful for the hours of happiness and joy his motion pictures have given me.
I will leave you with one final scene that always reminds me why I love cinema and even more so why life is worth living to the fullest even if it leads you to a dark room watching a screen.