Woody Allen’s Moral Universe

"Dostoyevsky or Turgenev?"


"If Jesus came back - and saw what's going on in his name - he'd never stop throwing up."

“If Jesus came back – and saw what’s going on in his name – he’d never stop throwing up.”

The Varnished Culture is conflicted: L dislikes Woody with his gaunt, Hebrew gamines, his obsessions, his recherché nostalgia, his nihilistic sentiment and relentless chauvinism.  P loves him, truth to tell, for the same reason. He cites a brace of films, maybe with one addition, as examples of his comic, cosmic, genius: Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanours, and Husbands and Wives.

These films suffer, like his other works, from a stuffy and noisy egocentricity but they are also, by far, the best depictions of modern morality – wise and wicked. Check out, for example, Judy Davis’ sublime failure to succumb to the new separation-scenario in Husbands and Wives, or the golden moment when Woody, with a crinkly laugh-and-gesture, reprises the Aristocrats at dinner with proto-fascist Hitler-type Lester (in Crimes and Misdemeanours). Or the cringe-worthy fumbling of a brilliant Michael Caine in Hannah.

"I'm walking on air!"

“I’m walking on air!”

Allen’s work is always worthwhile, even and perhaps because, you violently disagree with, or reject it.  Despite his apolaustic film-world (no one has a real job, everyone lives in apartments on the Upper East Side, days are for the cinema, evenings the opera), he is an artist of serious consideration, the worth of which will take time to decide.  There are fairly glib references to western culture in his films which evoke love, hate, and regret for lost possibilities, redolent of Mr Allen’s assertion that “His one regret in life is that he is not someone else.”


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