Whatever-Works-premiere-W-015While I was in a traffic jam yesterday, coming home to Atlanta from Maysville on I-85 (All Lanes Blocked …. dreaded words), I happened to catch an interview with Woody Allen on NPR.

He’s doing press to plug his new movie, “Whatever Works,” which opens in Atlanta in early July.

Movie sounds okay … more Allen-Angst, this time starring Larry David as the Woody surrogate and Evan Rachel Wood as the inevitable younger (much) woman … THIS TIME a Southern beauty queen with more dimples than brains.

Anyway, I have a soft spot for Allen since he’s created more enduring works than failures … though the masterpieces, like, say “Annie Hall” or “Hannah and Her Sisters,” are getting to be distant memories.

But listening to his interview, it struck me how time-warped he (and, sadly, his genius) is. The comments are what we could’ve heard 30 years ago, except for hems and hahs about his child bride/stepdaughter.

There are artists who’ve committed far more heinous crimes than that of a horny old man needing his youth re-affirmed by a younger woman (especially a supposedly forbidden younger woman). But for some reason, this transgression has stuck to Allen like … add your own metaphor.

It made me sad — though not as sad as being stuck in traffic with All Lanes Closed.

Perhaps it’s wrong to demand our artists stay creative and, well, personally acceptable for as long as they live. John Huston pulled stuff Allen probably never dreamed of and we just shook our collective heads.

Maybe it’s that you create your own bed (so to speak) and then we, your acolytes, force you to lie in it.

Oh, and Woody’s mom, played by the brilliant Patricia Clarkson, is named Marietta. Allen must’ve heard the name of our northern, um, southern  ‘burb long ago and put it in his drawer along with the rest of the screenplay.

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater

Eleanor Ringel Cater, long-time movie critic for The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, also has been a regular contributor to CNN, MSNBC, Entertainment Weekly, Headline News and WXIA, Atlanta's NBC affiliate, and a columnist for TV Guide.

  1. Hey Eleanor,
    I heard that interview with Woody, too, and was reminded of how infuriated I was that he squandered the admiration I’d always had for his work on doing that stupid thing with Mia’s daughter. Bill Clintonesque, though Bill pales by comparison except on the dumbass meter. I haven’t seen a movie of his since and won’t. When he told the interviewer that his philosophy of life was that life is short and rough so find whatever pleasure you can, I gagged. This may sound moralistic, and I suppose it is. But doing something that amounts to sleeping with your daughter puts it over the line for me.

  2. I have refused to watch anything from Woody Allen since he had an “affair” and then married his daughter.

  3. Tim Oliver

    Yes, his remark, in the interview, amounted to “Do what thy wilst,” which Aliester Crowley once said, and was thoroughly demonized. Now, is Allen a libertine, and diabolic on the same level as Crowley? Probably not. But, I do think that banjo music should be played when he appears on talk shows, and/ or awards shows, just like they do, supposed, incestuous couples on Springer.

  4. Eleanor, Lord, it’s great having your byline back in easy reach. Way back when I thought Woody Allen was the funniest standup comic who ever lived and why would he want to go off and make movies? Also, I’m probably the last man on earth who never saw Annie Hall but managed to fall in love with that image of Diane Keaton anyhow. Art transcends our sins, I believe, but spares us no consequences.

  5. I liked the good old days when we seldom met our artist heros, back when we could appreciate their art and to hell with them. Without exception every artist I’ve met in the past thirty years has some serious character flaws. I have my share too. This is why I no longer listen to marketing interviews or go to lectures or workshops. It’s my way of not confusing the artist with art. I’ll take the art and leave the analysis of celeberty lives to someone with fewer flaws than I.

  6. Melinda Ennis

    At least two recent Allen films, “Matchpoint”and “Vickie Cristina Barcelona” (and to a lesser degree the underrated “Scoop”) had me hoping that I could forget the past and be friends with Woody again.
    But the concept and casting of “Whatever Works” definitely doesn’t for me.
    There is an especially ironic and sickening twist to Allen’s “dirty old man loves little girl,” theme (which really began with “Manhattan” long before we knew that he was eyeing Mia Farrow’s daughters) . It’s almost a reverse-Lolita concept. In most of the films about his “problem,” the young girl is smitten and ga-ga (and even the agressor) with the old geezer (the exact opposite of Humbert Humbert’s issue). Think about the teenaged Juliette Lewis chasing after him in “Husbands and Wives” or his casting of the fresh-faced, twentyish Elizabeth Shue as his girlfriend (without a hint of comment about the age difference) in “Deconstructing Harry.”
    Allen is always showing us that these little girls are just wild about him!! Humbert chased and manipulated Lolita into seduction, but these girls (Mariel Hemingway, etc.al) chase poor Woody!! What’s a guy to do but give in to all that nubile, virginal flesh. Who would blame him?
    So with his last couple of films, I had hoped that age had at last diminished his libido and reined in his incredible ego, and he had settled down to a dometicated old age, cared for by his poor little daughter/wife Soon-Yi. Even Charlie Chaplin, another director who bedded a succession of teenagers, settled down with his last 18-year old, Oona O’Neill. Now, here comes Woody with “Whatever Works.” If possible, the thought of Larry David (Woody’s stand-in here) in love scenes with the baby doll-like Evan Rachel Wood is even more disgusting than seeing Julia Roberts chasing Allen all over Venice in “Everybody Says I Love You.” And with all due respect to Eleanor, who I revere as the world’s greatest movie critic, I can’t imagine what John Huston did that could come close to sleeping with and marrying your 17-year-old stepdaughter. Yes he was married about twenty times, and yes he drank Ernest Hemingway under the table. But, to quote Allen in “Manhatten” he usually played with girls in the “general vicinity” of his own age.

  7. Melinda Ennis

    To Dan Gilmore: I couldn’t agree more. We should seperate the artist and his work from his or her bad behavior. Picasso is a great example of a genius as an artist and a self-absorbed egomaniac as a man. I have never let the my love of his art be influenced by my abhorrence for his behavior to his family and lovers.
    As I said, I loved “Matchpoint” and “Vicki Cristina Barcelona” without ever once thinking about Woody Allen’s behavior. However, Woody insists on playing out his story, again and again in many of his movies—including this most recent, “Whatever Works.” His seems to have a pathetic need for us to understand his Soon-Yi issue and I guess, forgive him. I don’t want to forgive him, or even think about what he did or didn’t do. That’s why I wish he would just move on and use his genius on other topics.

  8. To Melinda Ennis: Don’t we all insist on playing out our stories again and again in one way or another? Don’t we all have pathetic needs to have our bad behaviors understood and forgiven? Don’t we all wish we could just move on but find ourselves stuck in repetitive self-destructive cycles? I accept that you don’t like Allen’s stories or his behaviors and that you don’t want to forgive him, but to make a public issue of condemning the artist as a person seems to me a bit dangerous. What’s wrong with sticking to the pluses and minuses of “Whatever Works,” as a piece of film making and forgetting about the psychic flaws of the maker of that film?

  9. Melinda Ennis

    Dan, you are right (and I don’t say that often). You make an excellent case and your position is correct. Any work of art should be judged on its merits alone. I think the man is a mess, but several of his films are still among my favorites. Although, I doubt I’ll be lining up to see this one based on the premise (and the reviews).

  10. A few things to consider…

    First of all, Woody Allen wasn’t married to Mia Farrow.

    He never, ever considered Soon Yi Previn his daughter, nor was he a father figure to the rest of the menagerie of children Farrow went around collecting. In fact, he lived in an apartment across the street and kept his distance.

    Soon Yi was 21 when she started her relationship with Allen in 1992.

    They married five years later, ithe day before Christmas in 1997, and are still together more than a decade later.

    So, the relationship has lasted almost two decades now.

    Nothing about the incident makes Allen a child molester. Just a man, like many others, who has found happiness with someone other than the person he was with at the time. Unfortunately, in this case, it caused Farrow a lot of pain.

    It has nothing to do with his movies, some of which are better than others, but all of which are a cut above most of what Hollywood churns out.

  11. Melinda Ennis

    CB, as I said, mea culpa. I don’t think I agree with your take on the Soon-Yi thing (and I’m not sure of the ages of everyone involved). But as I finally agreed with Dan, whatever I think about his personal actions, it should have nothing to do with my judgement of his art. Nevertheless, as a human being prone to influences and images as much as anyone else, that’s hard to accomplish —and a debate in itself. I think I read once that Richard Speck, who mudered 8 nurses in Chicago years ago, took up painting in jail, and was fairly successful. Although I agree that we should seperate the artist from the man/woman, I’d can’t say I’d buy one of his paintings, no matter how great, (not that I’m comparing the Woodman to Speck).

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