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Showing posts with label Diane Keaton. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Diane Keaton. Show all posts

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Cambridge Film Festival : Friday Films at The Red Lion, Whittlesford

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2013
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26 August

<i>If you haven't seen Woody Allen's classic take on a rom-com, we cannot recommend this highly enough ! Consistently voted a top comedy, it has inspired TV & film ever since.

Friday 6 September - doors open at 6.00 - films at dusk</i>

Except that :

1. The word 'rhombus' does not rhyme with the word 'comedy', so the term is a nonsense.

2. Anyway, a real romantic comedy, such as Allen's The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001), keeps you waiting until the end to find out.

3. Maybe, for all Allen's and Keaton's quips, it is not even a comedy.

4. In any case, although he is never properly given credit for it, Marshall Brickman co-wrote the film with Allen.

Unless stated otherwise, all films reviewed were screened at Festival Central (Arts Picturehouse, Cambridge)

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

A good long look at Woody ?

More views of - or before - Cambridge Film Festival 2012
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30 July

A documentary doesn’t that takes as its subject a person’s career does not have to mention every date, every detail. However, if he or she has been pictured with the first person whom he or she married, there might be merit in mentioning, by way of commentary, the fact of being divorced at the time of talking about the next marriage / relationship, e.g. X had divorced his / her first wife / husband m years earlier. (Or it could be mentioned at the time of introducing the failed marriage, e.g. This youthful marriage only lasted m years before ending in divorce.)

Whereas a feature film might give us information and expect us to hold it, or to be provisional about whether it is true, so, of course, can a documentary, if it wants to include some references to a person (or thing) for us to ponder before it is explained who (or what) it is. Otherwise, it is just clumsiness and /or bad editing if we have not been disabused that the marriage last mentioned is no longer continuing.

In this film, the longer version of the documentary about Woody Allen that was released at the cinema last year, it does not matter that we see Louise Lasser, in clips from Bananas (1971), before knowing that Allen had been married to her, too, and that they had made the film after their divorce, but no one had bothered to tell us, in the way suggested, that Allen's first marriage had ended. (On a similar theme, Part 2 touches upon the fact that Allen and Mia Farrow had adopted children, but lived separately, although so close that they could virtually wave to each other from their homes, but without specifying that they were not, and had not been, married.)

Anyway, Part 1 of does not cover a whole lot of new ground, but has more facts about Allen's family, dwells for somewhat longer on how Rollins and Joffe made Allen a household name and on his t.v. performances, and, after telling the story of What's New, Pussycat ?, has comments from Allen, but often enough others (such as Mariel Hemingway, Tracy in Manhattan (1979)), on the films up to and including Stardust Memories (1980).

In reviewing the single-film cinema version, I pointed out that what Father Robert Lauder observed, with reference to clips (all of which therefore took up some time), as an insight had actually been stated by Allen himself about his work in the useful volume Woody Allen on Woody Allen : Fr Robert is still here (for some reason*), but not that sequence. Part 1 had taken us to 1980 in some 116 minutes (looking at more or less every film), so by no means halfway through Allen’s film career, but Part 2 did not proceed in the same way, which, when it had done so in the cinema, seemed like a desperate and doomed attempt to continue a film-by-film survey.

Instead, it made much of the peculiarities of Allen’s way of casting, and of scripts being supplied to actors by courier for them to read whilst the courier waited to take them back. Tantalizing quotations from Allen’s personal notes to a number of actors were made, with the text (whether or not typed) whisked across the screen (unless, one imagines, one paused them), and letters or notes laid over each other. Whether Allen minded this, one did not know, but doubted, as he took the view that auditions were awful and awkward, and assumed that everyone else would feel the same.

I cannot say for sure whether much more was said by Allen about the Mia Farrow separation and court-case, but he was no longer heard to say (unless I am thinking of the mention in Allen on Allen in the chapter on Bullets over Broadway (1994)) that he would have been happy for Farrow to play the part with which, instead, Dianne Wiest initially struggled (though she was to win an Oscar), and that everyone else thought him crazy to consider casting Farrow, when he says that he just saw it as a role that she could play.

Josh Brolin was allowed to stand as a dissenting voice about Allen’s direction being good, but even offset by Brolin’s co-star in You will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010), Naomi Watts, saying that she had decided that Allen was the best director with whom she had worked. As to the question of coming to film in London and elsewhere in Europe, that was partly glossed over, except to say how difficult it is to film in New York and that Allen had nowhere left that he had not shot, and we were told that the appeal of Midnight in Paris (2011) was the life of the city at night, and (by Owen Wilson) that the title (which he said had been hit upon before the film was written) was the root of the film’s success.

From what I have heard and read, it had become less easy for Allen to film (or film as he wanted), but that was not the whole of it – also, as clips showed, Allen had filmed in places such as Paris and Venice in Everyone Says I Love You (1996) and, I believe, in Italy in Another Woman (1988). Culturally, his range of reference has always been very wide, and, as the film reminded us, Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini were favourite directors, and that was surely no coincidence.

A surprising omission from talking about thirty-years of film-making in around 86 minutes (Part 2) was not to comment, in talking about Interiors (1978), how it marked the first film that Allen wrote and directed without appearing in it. In Allen on Allen, he said that he had never thought of casting himself in that film, but it appeared not to have occurred to director Bob Weide that, just as Allen did not fulfill his critics’ expectations with the type of film, they could not have failed to notice that he was not in it. No mention was also made of Allen’s appearances as an actor in others’ films, such as with Bette Midler in Scenes from a Mall (1991), which he had started doing in 1967 with the David Niven version of Casino Royale.

When Allen showed his lifelong typewriter and how he produces material, one could easily have missed his reference to having written all his articles in The New Yorker on it, not least if the viewer does not know the publication. In fact, Allen has published four collections of pieces, and also seven or eight of his screenplays have appeared (from Manhattan (1979) to Broadway Danny Rose (1984) and Interiors). Early plays were talked about, but really as a way of introducing Diane Keaton, when it should have been possible, in a few sentences near the end, to mention books like Without Feathers**, the number of plays and film appearances, and, indeed, how many films Allen had made (and acted in).

Attention was given to the box-office successes of Match Point (2005) and Midnight in Paris, but the film lacked an overview and a structure in Part 2. So we were shown clips from Shadows and Fog (1991), but not in the context of saying anything about the film, almost just to illustrate a character’s way of being by not being able to relate to a God. Likewise, the account (again with clips) of Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) did not even make clear that chance conversation between Allen (as Cliff Stern) and Martin Landau (playing Judah Rosenthal) was at the heart of the film. Space was given to Allen saying that he found the darker story more interesting, and wished that he had made it without the character of Stern, but the crux of their interaction in the film was omitted from comment.

That said, although everyone (Allen included) was shown saying the word ‘compartmentalize[d]’ about Allen and how he worked throughout the Farrow break-up, and the film had the merit of people such as Letty Aronson (or even, in footage that Allen made, his mother) telling the story without any real narration, it needed it sparingly instead of just using quotation by clip. As it was, what got told about Allen, and what did not, in a two-parter that ran to some ninety minutes longer relied on what Diane Keaton, as a key figure, maybe said, or was asked, or was prompted to say, whereas my feeling is that Weide did not always show his own mastery of the material or the subject in what we saw, and I am not sure that that failure can be accounted for merely by the difficulty of turning, no doubt, hours of footage into a documentary of manageable length.

However, some clips, particularly towards the end, were very telling, and one had a lump in one’s throat in admiring all that Allen had done and excelled at. My wish is that, for those who knew his career and work less well, they could have known about the books, the other plays, the other films : as it was, fascinating though it was to be told that Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem had originated the dialogue in Spanish, translated it into English for the subtitles, and that Allen had had no idea at the time of shooting what they were talking about, giving a bit of time to the sheer body of Allen’s achievement would have said much more than showing that he trusted his actors.


* I, for one, am far more interested in what Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe (his producers), Eric Lax (an Allen biographer), Richard Schickel (a film critic), Letty Aronson (Allen’s sister), and Dick Cavett (the well-known chat-show host and broadcaster) had to say, though I suspect that Cavett was given more opportunity in the cinema release.

** The omnibus The Complete Prose of Woody Allen, whose title was falsified by the appearance of Mere Anarchy, would scarcely have appeared without that being a significant part of what the public knows of his work.

Friday, 27 April 2012

What did Jesus teach about bluebells? (1)

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29 April

It needs saying: he does not, in the surviving written record, mention them at all.

However, we can infer that he was not indifferent to them (and their social aspirations), because he did talk about or engage with:

1. Lilies in all their finery

2. King Solomon in that connection (famous for his mine)

3. Wheat

4. Other crops*

5. Pigs (and a casting-out of devils involved swine)

6. Vines and 'the fruit of the vine'

7. Fig-trees

8. Sheep and lambs

9. Lamb as meat (in German, Osterlamm for the Passover meal)

10. Bread

11. Wine-vinegar

12. Wine

13. Vines

To be continued


* Which would have chimed with Woody Allen and Diane Keaton in Love and Death (1975)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

When a joke is an autobiography

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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18 January

Take this:

For most of his childhood he was a loner, undoubtedly suffering from an inferiority complex. Consistently depressed and fearful of death, Allen learned to overcome his neuroses with comedy. His perception of his childhood and his inadequacies is now central to his humor. "I was in analysis for years because of a traumatic childhood. I was breast fed through falsies," is just one example.

And this:

Nettie and Martin Konigsberg naturally didn't understand the prodigy they had brought forth [elsewhere described as 'semi-literate'], and were very hurt by his college performance. "My mother was a sensitive woman. When I was thrown out of college she locked herself in the bathroom and took an overdose of Mah-Jongg tiles."

And this in a biography of not Allen, but Diane Keaton!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

An empty future

More views of - or after - Cambridge Film Festival 2011
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22 November

A great director, an Allen, can write for him- or herself perfectly and bring it off.

Miranda July has created, in Sophie, something that she could not inhabit - yes, the character is meant to have an awkwardness about and with herself, but the July behind it is not comfortable with that*.

By contrast, I can imagine a younger Diane Keaton playing this role brilliantly, with all of the nervous energy, but actually being a credible - not just rather irritating and inadequate - Sophie. Is Keaton one of July's heroines? I'd be very surprised, if not...


* Actually, it's a bit like Rapunzel - children might accept the story, and not think of the physics behind golden tresses being let down and the handsome suitor climbing up (which, by the way, is not the least of Marshall's charms, even if he is a bit Kirk Douglas - more Frog Prince than Prince Charming), whereas wiser heads can appreciate that she remains attached by her own to the tresses, and the whole of her, or it, will end up being pulled swiftly out of the tower window.