Woody Allen’s recent Midnight in Paris is a fun trifle, stroking the audience’s ego with its 1920s Paris fantasy imagined by an intellectually lightweight author. Literally nothing’s at stake in this well-fed easygoing fantasy. It’s an echo of the far better, wonderful and sad Purple Rose of Cairo (also with a character named Gil!) released in 1985 (more proof that 1984 is the high point of Western civilization). It inspired me to rent all the Woody Allen movies I’ve missed. I’ve seen over 25 but his output is relentless, a movie every year for decades.
Even his recent misses are well-written, well-structured, well-paced. In some ways they don’t add up to anything, just urbanites talking, but perhaps because of his age Woody Allen is starkly laying out his philosophy which is that nothing adds up to anything anyway, so a pointless movie advances his argument.
You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger has great actors play a bunch of people deluded about love and the paranormal. (This after so many of his Mia Farrow-era movies are about strange and mystical goings-on.) The acting is fantastic, the observations droll, the unhappy marriage scenes are sensational. But then it just ends, leaving everything including a casually great plot twist/comeuppance (I had to pause the movie while laughing out loud in admiration) unresolved. The narrator helpfully explains that as Shakespeare (actually Macbeth) says, “life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
Whatever Works has a bunch of aging thinkers and young romantics and formerly religious find romantic fulfillment, then at the end Larry David as Allen’s mouthpiece turns to the camera and says
I happen to hate New Year’s celebrations. Everybody desperate to have fun. Trying to celebrate in some pathetic little way. Celebrate what? A step closer to the grave? That’s why I can’t say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works. And don’t kid yourself. Because its by no means up to your own human ingenuity. A bigger part of your existence is luck, than you’d like to admit