Monday, March 02, 2009

A recognisable voice by any other name is, for a comic, shtick

To a short article about the premiere of Woody Allen's next film, online editors added a link to a supposed diary Allen kept during the shooting of his recent, Oscar-nominated "Vicky Cristina Barcelona." A typical excerpt:
July 15 -- Once again I had to help Javier with the lovemaking scenes. The sequence requires him to grab Penélope Cruz, tear off her clothes and ravish her in the bedroom. Oscar winner that he is, the man still needs me to show him how to play passion. I grabbed Penélope and with one motion tore her clothes off. As fate would have it she had not yet changed into costume, so it was her own expensive dress I mutilated. Undaunted I flung her down before the fireplace and dove on top of her. Minx that she is, she rolled away a split second before I landed causing me to fracture certain key teeth on the tile floor. Fine day's work, and I should be able to eat solids by August.
Of course, none of this so-called diary has anything to do with what happened during the shooting of the film. It's merely a promotional device, something you could see Allen sitting down and writing in the space of a few cab rides in Manhattan. Still, it's undeniably his voice, and you can't read it without hearing him -- the same kinds of jokes, phrases and pacing he's been using for nearly 50 years -- in other words, his shtick.

It's not that I don't harbor some admiration for it, it's that I wonder whom it's supposed to impress. Is anyone reading that piece naive enough to say to themselves, "Gosh, it's the same ol' Woody we have known and loved since 'Take the Money and Run.' I'm putting 'Vicky Cristina' on my Netflix queue straight off"? In order to have that reaction, the reader would have to have missed the last 12 years or so of Allen's career, which has been underwater since, at least, "Everyone Says I Love You."

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