Anytime Woody Allen makes the trip to Cannes a (large) crowd crowd is expected to gather to gather. Such was the case once again today as the American auteur unveiled his latest film.
An unruly mob of journalists amassed for this morning’s first screening of his latest film, “You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger.” Even ‘A list’ critics like Manohla Dargis and Todd McCarthy were stuck in the pushing and shoving crowd as the screening time approached, that is until festival guards apologetically intervened to get them into the theater in time. Journalists jeered as some of us were let in. Many folks were turned away.
Buzz has been generally positive for Woody Allen’s latest, despite some detractors emerging in the wake of today’s showing.
Allen’s film is the story of two pairs of struggling husbands and wives living in London. Art gallery assistant Sally (Naomi Watts) and her husband Roy (Josh Brolin) are each enamored of others, while Sally’s parents (played by Anthony Hopkins and Gemma Jones) are also heading in different directions. Her dad is having a late age crisis and goes after a younger women, while her mom is increasingly living her life at the direction of a fortune teller. The aging woman gets through life relying more on illusion than reality.
Seeming chipper as he chatted with a warm press corps today, Allen was asked about his own views on life and relationships and the sort of statement he is making on happiness and obliviousness. Does the film reflect his own pessimistic views? He seems to be saying that to be happy one must be naive.
“This is my perspective and has always been my perspective on life,” Allen explained, describing human existence as rather bleak.
“I have a very grim, pessimistic view of [life],” Woody Allen continued, “I always have since I was a little boy. It hasn’t gotten worse with age or anything. I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience and that the only we you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies or deceive yourself.”
Explaining that he is not the first person to say such things, he cited Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and Eugene O’Neill. “One must have delusions to live,” Allen reiterated.
If he saw people like his happy characters at a party, he said, he’d think they were foolish and dumb. He’d make fun of them.
But, he clarified, “They would be happier than me.”
Later, the seventy four year old Allen was asked how he relates to the concept of getting old and then dying.
“I find it a lousy deal, there is no advantage to getting older,” Woody Allen explained, “You don’t get smarter, you don’t get wiser…It’s a bad business, getting old and I would advise you not to do it if you can avoid it. It doesn’t have a romantic quality. It’s better to be younger and get the girl in the movie.”
Provocatively, near the end of the session, a Scandinavian journalist queried Allen about the depiction of older – younger relationships in his films (but steered clear of asking about the director’s marriage to a younger woman). Allen stumbled just a bit, saying that while it’s not a consistent trend in his own films, it’s a relationship situation that affords many a comedic situation.
Meanwhile, the real laughs were saved for a question about Allen’s own views on mortality.
“My relationship with death remains the same,” Allen said, pausing, “I am strongly against it.” He continued, “All I can do, though, is write. I was lucky,” he said, “My parents lived a long time, so maybe that will be good for me, I don’t know, I am a big coward.”
Like a character in his new film who is aiming to meet a mysterious stranger to make her happy, Woody Allen said that people often want to be swept away by the unknown. And then he reflected on the duality of his film’s title.
“There is a tall, dark stranger that we all eventually meet that we don’t want to meet,” he said.