Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fun With LA Weekly

Brace yourself for Scott Foundas' description of Woody Allen's new film, Whatever Works, which may really take you by surprise:
... a light comic burlesque — a minor key but eminently pleasurable Allen confection — starring Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm mastermind Larry David as Boris Yellnikoff, an atheistic, egotistical, misanthropic physics professor whose contempt for the entire human race is lessened by his chance meeting with (and eventual marriage to) the ditzy Southern belle (Evan Rachel Wood) he finds squatting underneath his backstairs.
This is a Woody Allen film? My goodness, what a departure. In the interview Allen hits a familiar nihilistic note:
The same obsessions I had when I first started, I have now. I’ve been in psychoanalysis, I’ve been successful, I’ve had ups, I’ve had downs. I’ve had some hit movies, movies that failed. But with everything that’s happened to me, all of my experiences, I’ve never been able to solve the real problems of life that have plagued every playwright since Euripides and Aristophanes. No progress has been made on the existential themes and the subject of interpersonal relations, which are still brutal and painful and fragile and very hard to make work, and which cause everybody an enormous amount of suffering and grief. Why are we here? What is the point of it all?

Take Camus’ question [in The Myth of Sisyphus] of whether or not to commit suicide. Now, even the most grim people come to rationalizations where, in Camus’ case, he feels that pushing the rock up the hill, the doing of it, is worth it and you don’t have to succeed. But I feel — in answer to the question of why should we not kill ourselves given a meaningless, godless existence — that it’s a pre-intellectual question, and that your body answers it for you. Your mind will never be able to give you a convincing justification for living your life, because from a logical point of view, if your life is indeed meaningless — which it is — and there’s nothing out there, what is the point of it? Well, the point of it is only that you’re too scared to terminate it because you’re hard-wired, it’s in your blood, to live and to want to live and to want to protect yourself. So, while I’m home babbling about how meaningless life is and how cruel and brutal and without any purpose, if there’s a fire in my house, I’ll go to extreme measures to save my life. And then when I’ve saved my life, I’ll say to myself, “Why did you bother to do that?”
I think this is a bunch of slightly dishonest hoo-ha. Woody obviously enjoys his life and finds meaning in it. Personally, I think that people don't kill themselves because ultimately that's not what they really want. Forget their bodies; their minds don't want it. You know what, Woody? Euripedes and Aristophanes didn't know shit. Drop that Western crap and read some Buddhism already. I agree with his comments on acting, though:
People who can act are naturals. Over the years, I’ve met and worked with people who studied all over the place, and if they had natural talent, it was great. If they didn’t, the fact that they had studied didn’t mean anything. I’ve gotten guys off the street — literally off the street — who come in here and, when they speak, they’re un–self-conscious and authentic. Whereas, with a lot of professional actors, they come in to meet for a part and we’ll be chatting like we’re chatting now, and they’re just fine. Then, they read the part and they go into their acting mode, and everything about them suddenly becomes inauthentic. They feel they have to do something to the material or they’re not justifying their paycheck. So they start acting it, and you don’t want them to act it; you want them to just say it. If they’re supposed to be a salesman, you want them to be a salesman like you’d experience a salesman. But they don’t. They start playing a salesman.
Meanwhile, Francis Ford Coppola seems pretty in touch with himself at this stage of his career:
A lot of works of art are not appreciated in their moment, and later on, they grow in prestige. I always chuckle when people say, “You probably won’t be able to make the kind of successes you made when you were younger. How do you feel about that?” I just shrug. Shy of The Godfather, most of my films were not really, in their day, successful.


In the summer, you have a choice to see the Tom Hanks movie, or Wolverine, or God knows — whatever the big movie is, and for that percentage that might want to see a more personal film, hopefully they’ll come. It’s funny, when you [release] a movie, it’s like turning the shower on in a hotel you haven’t stayed at. The water either comes out with all this pressure, or just dribble, dribble, dribble.


More difficult is my wife, because she has many ambitions and talents, but who’s going to be my wife? Who’s going to fix the house up and make it nice? It’s more difficult with a wife because there becomes a job vacancy if your wife is going to go off and become an artist. Who’s going to be the wife? We both need one. I’ll do the cooking, but who’s going to worry about the household and stuff? That’s been a very big, frustrating aspect. I’ve been married 46 years, and it’s never been resolved.
Have you tried a maid? Finally, Foundas really lets Dave Eggers have it in his review of Away We Go. His feelings toward the film's director, Sam Mendes, are harder to decipher, although I have to say that when I was reading this paragraph in a restaurant I laughed out loud:
Mendes, too, seems to have trouble getting onboard with the underachieving set. His direction here is looser and less starchy than usual, less honorific and Oscar-worthy but still somehow on the outside looking in. When Mendes takes his camera off the tripod and puts a suite of Nick Drake sound-alike alt-rock ballads on the soundtrack, it’s a bit like watching someone’s dad dive into a mosh pit, or a Mumblecore movie made by David Lean.


Peter Matthew Reed said...

We're playing Away We Go in Sacramento from today, so people can contact me if they want to see it (*cough* for free *cough*), and they're in the area.

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