Woody Allen has a pretty interesting, fairly troubling, and memorably insightful rebuke to all those who criticize his films for seemingly existing in a so-called post 9/11 New York City. In an interview with Der Spiegel , Woody says:
“As a filmmaker, I’m not interested in 9/11. Because, if you look at the big picture, the long view of things, it’s too small, history overwhelms it. The history of the world is like: he kills me, I kill him. Only with different cosmetics and different castings: so in 2001 some fanatics killed some Americans, and now some Americans are killing some Iraqis. And in my childhood, some Nazis killed Jews. And now, some Jewish people and some Palestinians are killing each other. Political questions, if you go back thousands of years, are ephemeral, not important. History is the same thing over and over again.”
Myself being somewhere in the middle on Melinda and Melinda, a film which invites such on-the-fence reactions through its very structure, I had criticized it openly for its candy-colored Golden Age homage, its luxurious decor, its spacious Manhattan apartments inhabited by unemployed actors, and its twentysomethings grumbling about not having enough money whilst clutching stem-glasses of crisp Chardonnays. Yet Woody’s comment here, and others in this insightful interview, show that not everything is perhaps as black-and-white in his films as many speculate. Is it wrong to take Allen to task for not presenting a New York City as we see it through our individual perspectives? Isn’t it somewhat self aggrandizing and nearly puerile to bemoan Woody — the director of Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, and Zelig, for God’s sake — for a lack of critical distancing?
It seems to me that, regardless of what he’s “aping,” or perhaps appropriating for American consumption, Woody imbues his accessible films with more questioning and rejection of normative resolution than any other famed filmmaker in this country. Why isn’t Tarantino criticized for his own recycling? Because he trafficks in the disreputable, something most mainstream critics don’t feel protective of…Chekhov, Bergman, and Fellini are untouchable, while chopsocky kick-flicks and EC Comics are industry “fair game.” It may sound odd to many, but I can’t imagine an American cinematic landscape that doesn’t include Interiors, Hannah and Her Sisters, or Another Woman.
Here’s hoping that the buzz on Match Point is reliable and true, and that this very important voice in American cinema is back in full swing while he’s got some solid years left.