Saturday, May 30, 2015

Woody Allen Plus Larry David = ?

If you're fascinated in the roots of Jewish humor -- or the humor of Jewish roots -- you must read Mark Harris' terrific piece in New York Magazine about Woody Allen and Larry David and their new movie, Whatever Works, originally written by Allen in the '70s for Zero Mostel and repurposed for David. If the film is half as funny as Harris' article, which wonders, if the archetypal funny/sad Jewish guy "still has any relevance in an age when American Jews don’t feel so bad about things, except on Yom Kippur," it'll be better than three of Allen's last four films.

Woody Allen Plus Larry David = ?

Woody Allen and wife, Soon-Yi, at the New York premiere of "Whatever Works."
Woody Allen and wife, Soon-Yi, at the New York premiere of "Whatever Works."

If you're fascinated in the roots of Jewish humor -- or the humor of Jewish roots -- you must read Mark Harris' terrific piece in New York Magazine about Woody Allen and Larry David and their new movie, Whatever Works, originally written by Allen in the '70s for Zero Mostel and repurposed for David. If the film is half as funny as Harris' article, which wonders, if the archetypal funny/sad Jewish guy "still has any relevance in an age when American Jews don’t feel so bad about things, except on Yom Kippur," it'll be better than three of Allen's last four films.

Except for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, a light-filled account of a pragmatist and a romantic in Spain, I've been disappointed in Allen's recent work. Match Point and Scoop felt like tragic and comic interpolations of the murder and opportunism, idealism and romance themes played so superbly in Crimes and Misdemeanors. Here's hoping that Allen's return to his beloved Manhattan is a restorative.

Not that you asked, but the Allen movies that most move me are from his middle period that started with Annie Hall (1977) and ended with Crimes (1989). By then, he had done his "earlier, funny" genre parodies (as a character in Stardust Memories puts it) and emerged as a filmmaker with his own style and voice. (At a tribute to Bob Hope that Allen put together in the 1970s for Lincoln Center, he admitted to being horrified at the extent to which he had stolen Hope's one-liners and persona as a self-conscious schnook.) My top-five Allens are Annie, Manhattan, Purple Rose of Cairo, Crimes and Deconstructing HarryEveryone Says I Love You is a not-so-guilty pleasure: I love hearing Ed Norton and Tim Roth sing and watching Goldie Hawn dance. You?

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Carrie Rickey Film Critic
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