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Monday, 19 December 2011

Early Woody and Mere Anarchy (1)

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
(Click here to go directly to the Festival web-site)

20 December

Maybe I'm just a Gil Pinder (from Allen's latest release, Midnight in Paris), but I have now read half-a-dozen from this new collection (well, fairly new - compared, certainly, with the book-of-books, The Complete Prose of Woody Allen, whose title it falsifies), and I simply don't think that many of them match up to those in books such as Side Effects.

I grew up with Allen as much as an author as a film-maker (Annie Hall was the first thing that I saw, in tow with my parents even), but I caught up with other films, such as Sleeper, on t.v., so the roles are for me inseparable. However, I have a memory of the pieces from those three books (the others being, without checking, Without Feathers and Getting Even) working better and more consistently than these. But that was a while ago, and maybe, as Paul conceitedy tells Gil in the film, that is just what he thinks himself clever enough to call 'Golden Age thinking'.

Be that as it may. The pieces in Mere Anarchy have, I think (but maybe not in all cases), been collected after appearing in such places as The New Yorker (not taking it, I cannot guess how often Allen contributes, how the choice of pieces that were first published there was made, and whether better ones were overlooked in the process). He may also have continued to write plays and for t.v., but that sort of writing is clearly closer to scripting film dialogue than short humorous pieces.

With the one that I have last read, curiously titled (I see) 'Calisthenics, Poison Ivy, Final Cut', the humour arises from the cut and thrust of imagined speech, since it is a vituperative exchange by letter between the owner of 'a film camp' (called Camp Melanoma) and the father of the boy who, attending there, wrote and filmed a nameless blockbuster - the subject being who is entitled to claim the credit and a share in the multi-million-dollar distribution rights. Compared to this, the earlier pieces seem flat, thin on laughs, and almost one dimensional, so not, for me, the sort of things to bring out proudly in a book. But I haven't read the whole book, and more than half is left, so the balance of pieces that succeed with me may change...

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