Woody Allen: where are we at?

Illustration by Emily Knapp

When I was asked to write an article about Woody Allen for the paper following my showing of the maestro’s ‘Stardust Memories’ at Film Society, I have to confess the task seemed like an alluring yet overtly poisoned chalice. Even the name seems to have become bracketed with those of Mephistopheles and Beetlejuice where if one says them too often, they might just pop out of the ether and corrupt your soul. Of course, Woody Allen isn’t a malevolent ghoul but a human being. A flawed human being, certainly [and this article would like to get as far away from the maelstrom of that court case as quickly as possible], but nonetheless one of the most visionary and interesting directors in the history of cinema.

I nearly considered writing a kind of meta-article. A sort of: how does one write about the problem of writing about Woody Allen. The man undoubtedly has an incredibly influential, certainly intensely referential and critically acclaimed oeuvre. But he also suffers, especially in the contemporary generation, from an image crisis. Even in the film ‘Weiner Dog’, released last year, his name is held up by an alternative, experimental film student as the defining frumpy character trait of the ageing Danny DeVito’s character as their dolorous pedagogue [‘ew, he probably has the Woody Allen box set’]. The peanut butter coloured outfits and cavernous slacks, stalwarts of the obsessively un-sexy costumes of both Allen’s life and films, don’t help to ease the problem in any way.