Later this month, Woody Allen brings “Irrational Man” to theaters, and led by Joaquin Phoenix and Emma Stone, it finds the filmmaker once again brewing a mix of existential drama, romance, and a bit of comedy too. And while his comedies still come first in any discussion of his body of work, Allen believes his talents as a dramatic director are somewhat undervalued, and that audiences still expect to laugh watching his movies.
“When I started out, I wanted to be a dramatic writer. My heroes were Eugene O’Neill and Tennessee Williams and Ingmar Bergman. I had no interest in comedy, but it’s where my talent was. It was the path of least resistance,” he told The Wall Street Journal. “People want comedy from me and still interpret things I do as comic when of course they’re not. I remember doing ‘Match Point,’ which seemed to me in no way remotely amusing. It was a serious story about a poor guy who winds up in a terrible jam and kills people. At the Cannes Film Festival it was very well received, but while the film was on there were any number of laughs. I believe people laughed because they thought they would be missing something if they didn’t laugh. Same with [‘Irrational Man’]—there’s almost nothing funny. But it will always get some laughs because people associate me with that.”
Indeed, it does seem that whenever Allen makes a drama, it’s always perceived as something as a surprise, even if he’s done a handful of them to date. However, while he’s clearly cognizant of how his films are received, he hasn’t changed his approach in decades. Each year he bangs out a script, pulls together financing, lines up a cast, and is lensing another feature. And as far as Allen is concerned, he’ll keep working until the very end.
“I just work year after year, and so far it seems, unless I don’t know what’s going on, that I’m in good health. I feel energetic. My dad lived to slightly over 100. My mother lived to almost 100. My guess is I’ll just keep working as long as people keep backing me,” he said. “I have a lot of stories I’d like to tell. I don’t see myself building to any definitive statement or swan song. I see myself, you know, dying in the saddle.”
“Irrational Man” opens on July 17th.