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Anything Else (#110 of 2)

Tightrope-Walking Cynical Humanist: On Recent Woody Allen

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Tightrope-Walking Cynical Humanist: On Recent Woody Allen
Tightrope-Walking Cynical Humanist: On Recent Woody Allen

There have been complaints that the Woody Allen of the ’00s does not live up to the Woody Allen of the ’70s or ’80s. But there are four moments (thematic footfalls) that prove him to be just as he’s always been—the rarest and greatest of tightrope-walking cynical humanists.

The Dueling Tongues

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion is set in 1940 (the same year that His Girl Friday and its faster-than-bullets/sharper-than-knives dialogue was released) and contains some of the outwardly meanest dialogue Allen has ever written. C.W. (Allen) and Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), warring employees at an insurance firm, trade insults set to a rapid metronome that sometimes falters when it comes time for C.W. to shoot. The slight pauses and stutters between retorts offer light into the crevices of his personality. It’s the central condition of the Allen character (be it played by Allen or a surrogate), the quick-witted egoist who, when it really comes down to it, is shivering with insecurity. Whereas Grant and Russell’s dueling tongues send confident and strident sparks, Allen’s words are reluctant, gripping onto his vocal cords for an extra moment before being forced out. His is a cinema populated with men who wince as they unload the barrels of their mouths.

Getting Lazy: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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Getting Lazy: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Getting Lazy: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

That was the first thought that struck me during my viewing of the Woodman’s latest, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. The film’s title is an appropriate stand-in for the movie itself: straightforward exposition laid bare. As Vicky Cristina Barcelona begins, we are treated to images of Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) traipsing off to the titular city. Alongside said images is a narration that lays everything bare with the most minimal effort: Vicky and Cristina are off together to Barcelona for a summer, they’re going to stay at Vicky’s parents’ friend’s place, Vicky is studying for her Masters, Cristina doesn’t know what’s next for her, et cetera. And there they are, five minutes into the film, the audience expectantly wondering what adventures will befall them?