Thursday, December 21, 2006

Sweet and Low (down)

The holidays are upon us, and I feel like bashing Woody Allen again. Every time I watch a movie of his that I used to like, I'm struck by the misogyny that forms the warp and woof of his stories. It may even go back to Sleeper; it definitely is more pronounced in the later films. The disillusioning film of the moment, courtesy once again of the San Carlos Library, is Sweet and Lowdown. I remember recommending this film wholeheartedly to my parents, then rushing out to buy Django Reinhardt CDs. I suppose the latter is something I can still be grateful for. But despite all Sean Penn's hard (you might even say sweaty) work, the film still has Woody's peevish little fingerprints all over it. First, and most prominently: the fantasy of the mute woman with a voracious sexual appetite who shrugs off verbal abuse because she knows "he doesn't mean it." God. But along with misogyny is the general resentment of all who don't recognize the great artist's talents. This occurred to me in a dream as I dozed off on the couch before the ending. Emmett Ray is the second best jazz guitarist in the world, the best being the European Django Reinhardt. In the past Allen carried on about how he wanted to make movies like Ingmar Bergman. I'm not sure whom he blames for his failure to come close to Bergman or even to Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze--maybe it's Mia's fault. In Sweet and Lowdown, the two women in Emmett's life tell him he'd be a better musician if he'd let his feelings out...but this can't be Woody's problem. What he'd let out would be a torrent of bitterness toward everyone, especially women, who fails to worship him (see Deconstructing Harry).

I used to think liking Woody Allen represented a certain level of sophistication, but now it seems like pseudo-sophistication--the very people he makes fun of in his movies are the only ones who would think the movies are profound.

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