Op-Ed: Woody Allen - The genius of art, moroseness and life

Posted Dec 26, 2009 by Andrew Moran
For the majority of my life I never had a father figure due to my father's death at the age of six. When I met a Woody Allen film at the age of eight, I realized at a much later point in my life that Allen's work has been my father figure.
Director/writer Woody Allen
Director/writer Woody Allen
by David Shankbone
I just finished watching the 1980s Woody Allen film "Stardust Memories" and it immediately compelled me to write this piece.
Death. Loneliness. Misery. Suffering. Unhappiness. I thought these words would describe my life but actually they describe the genius of Woody Allen’s filmmaking.
Many of the socialites and pseudo-intellects of the world will always name Fellini or Goddard or Lang has the most influential filmmakers in the world but as time goes by there really isn’t much empathy in those pictures. The only way one could feel empathy in a Fellini picture is if they have a similar instability to the characters. A great example is “8 ½” when the character, Guido, tries to find real meaning to his picture but actually realizes his only influence has been his loved ones and in the process has those infamous imaginative anecdotes.
Woody Allen has made many pictures all including slapstick, existentialism, insight, vaudevillian and moroseness. Every single picture he has made, including his films with DreamWorks Entertainment, have shown a message and one that every viewer of his films could enrapture themselves with.
Before I wrote this article, I also had the same views as the pseudo-intellect that Fellini and all the other geniuses were the greatest filmmakers of all time. I do believe they are one of the greats but the true realization is that Mr. Woody Allen is the greatest. What made me believe this was when I watched “Stardust Memories” about a comedic director who tries to find meaning in his life by directing more serious and meaningful dramas.
One particular scene is when the character of Woody Allen talks to a group aliens to see if there is any meaning to this godforsaken world. Near the end of the scene the music of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” begins in the background. It’s such a beautiful and empathizing scene for myself because I find life meaningless and I love jazz music.
Other pictures have these similar undertones that make me feel this way. Specifically “Deconstructing Harry,” “Anything Else” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” because every character has had a depressive experience in their life and, without going into too much detail, I can feel for his characters.
Again, without going into too much analysis, I have times where I cannot write because I find it all meaningless or that I will never be loved because I’m too unstable.
One thing that most of his characters have in common is that they’re all writers and each writer only has one true passion in life and that brings stability: writing. Writing is the most important thing to me.
The only negative a Woody Allen picture has is that it’s quite discouraging because it’s so brilliant. Every time I write a short story, a play or a screenplay, I just think how unworthy I am compared to an artistic deity like Woody Allen, August Strindberg or Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Many critics of Woody Allen say that he just plagiarizes the stories of many artists or other films such as Tolstoy (Love & Death), Dostoevsky (Crimes & Misdemeanors, Match Point), Fellini (Stardust Memories), Bergman (Interiors, Deconstructing Harry) or The Thin Man (Manhattan Murder Mystery).
My retort to that is that it’s just absolutely wrong. Every picture he has done has paid homage to, for lack of a better word, a hero of his, in my opinion anyway. I do similar things because the works of Dostoevsky or John Huston have been very influential to me.
True artists are very rare these days and we should all thank God (or whoever it is) that Woody Allen is still alive today. We don’t have a lot of artists to choose from in the modern uninspired days of motion pictures.
Every single topic Woody Allen has discussed in his books, plays and screenplays have been subjects that someone can relate to. For me, I guarantee 90 per cent of his works have touched me to a core.
A friend of mine has similar feelings as me, but it’s to Ingmar Bergman. Most pictures he has ever created have made my friend empathize just as Woody Allen has done to me. Maybe my thoughts are just an egocentric and narcissistic point of view or maybe the whole point is that art is the most important thing in this too realistic world.
The great Camus once said, “If life were stable, art wouldn’t exist.”