Woody Allen’s Such A <i>Cassandra</i>


courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Greetings and salutations* film nerds from a living hell otherwise known as the Hollywood Movie Junket Circuit where Poppa H just bagged a kick ass interview with one of his all time auteur heroes—the nebbish Woody Allen. How did I swing an exclusive? There were three factors: it was not an exclusive, Dick Cavett is my bitch and my agent told The Weinstein Company publicity hounds a teensy little white fib to get me in the door, something about MRF writing a sardonic piece for Esquire Magazine that talks up the WGA Strike while shedding a good light on indie mogul Harvey Weinstein

I know, I’m the big winner of the Zelda Fitzgerald Emotional Maturity Award* but according to Woody, we live in a godless universe with no moral code so who the shit cares about ethics, especially here in the land of Machiavelli (Hell-A)? Answer: no one, except all the clucking Weinstein PR Hens who were (seemingly) pissed I arrived drunk, snored through half the screening of Woody’s new film Cassandra’s Dream and was unprepared to bow at the feet of my auteur hero without chain smoking a pack of Winston’s. I won’t delve into how I arrived at the junket in such a state as a lawsuit is pending but I will say, when it was my chance to ask Woody a question; my heartfelt inquiry (in sonnet form) was not well-received by Allen, Soon-Yi or the Weinstein Group.  My question went a little something like this …

Master Woody,
Can you expound on the following passage
from your 1975 film Love and Death?...
“To love is to suffer.
So to avoid suffering,
one must not love.
But, then one suffers from not loving.
Therefore, to love is to suffer.
Not to love is to suffer.
To suffer is to suffer.
To be happy is to love.
To be happy then, is to suffer.
But suffering makes one unhappy.
Therefore, to be unhappy one must love,
or love to suffer,
or suffer from too much happiness,
I hope you're getting all this down …*”

Click here to view Woody Allen’s nonplussed response to my Shakespearean softball on You Tube

Doing The Neutron Dance With Soon-Yi’s Security Goons

Though (on the video) you can clearly hear the other “journalists” in the room digging on my angle, I found myself thrown down six flights of stairs by Soon Yi Previn’s personal security goons. No longer drunk, I relaxed into the beating by remembering the two tenants of Woody’s comedic philosophy, 1) Comedy is tragedy plus time* and 2) If it bends it’s funny, if it breaks isn’t.*

Both notions briefly warmed my heart with irony, but soon my heart was un-ironically thrown through the Weinstein’s front office plate glass window a la Axl Foley in Beverly Hills Cop. After spitting out a mouthful of breakaway glass, I scraped my bent (but not broken) frame off the sidewalk, and that’s when it finally hit me. If I want to pull a profound answer out of God Woody, how about I respect the man by catching the afternoon press screening of Cassandra’s Dream but this time, without rolling empty Corona bottles down the foot aisles?

courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Cassandra’s Dream

And so it was, I was rewarded upon second viewing to find Cassandra’s Dream isn’t the snoozer it (at first blush) appears to be. Starring Ewan McGregor, Colin Farrell and Tom Wilkinson, Dream is being roundly panned by critics who don’t think it’s funny enough or profound enough, but what I saw was a taut little murder mystery where the shadowy streets of London lead a couple of good-hearted brothers down the road to hell. But here’s the real shocker in Cassandra’s Dream; Woody Allen knows how to direct suspense! He’s no Hitch but if you take into account Dream’s foreboding Philip Glass score, you’ve got a tense little caper movie that Guy Ritchie would kill to have directed. This is a good film. 

It may look and feel different than any other Woody movie you have ever seen, but if you look closely, all the Woody elements are there: the schlemiel protagonist, the neurotic beauty, the godless universe and so forth. It’s not a masterpiece but who cares? Woody Allen is not only a living legend who’s still making quality pictures, he produces one every year! 

courtesy of The Weinstein Company

Should Woody be taken to the wood shed because he hasn’t given us another masterpiece? Should we toss his latest little English thriller on the trash heap because it’s not as phenomenal as Before The Devil Knows Your Dead? Hell no, give the old man a break, they all can’t be Crimes and Misdemeanors or even Sweet and Lowdown, but trust your cinematic filter will ya, Cassandra’s Dream is better than 90 percent of the crap filling theaters today. You can quote me on that.

Epilogue From God Woody

So what did MRF learn from his latest caper gone sideways? Ironically, my lesson came that night in my sleep. I dreamt I was interviewing God at a PGA Golf Tournament who looked just like Woody. I asked for advice:

                                     Shouldn't I stop writing and do something that counts,
                                     like helping blind people or becoming a missionary or something?

                                     Let me tell you, you're not the missionary type. You'd never last.
                                     And incidentally, you're also not Superman; you're a comedian.
                                     You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.

Um, er, I’ll keep working on that America. Until next time, this is you know who signing off, be bad and get into trouble baby …* MRF

Woody Allen Hidden Gems
•    Match Point (2005) Dir. Allen
•    Sweet and Lowdown (1999) Dir. Allen
•    Broadway Danny Rose (1984) Dir. Allen
•    Stardust Memories (1980) Dir. Allen
•    What’s Up Tiger Lily? (1966) Dir. Allen

Happenings Round Town
•    Annie Hall (1977) Dir. Allen – Red Vic (2/13, 2/14)
•    Romeo and Juliet (1968) Dir. Zeffirelli – Castro (2/14)
•    Blade Runner: The Final Cut (1982) Dir. Scott – Castro (2/15 to 2/21)
•    There Will Be Blood (2007) Dir. PT Anderson – Bridge
•    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007) Dir. Schnabel – Embarcadero
•    Michael Clayton (2007) Dir. Gilroy – Opera Plaza

Volume 51 Footnotes
•    “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder.
•     “Comedy is tragedy plus time … If it bends it’s funny, if it breaks it isn’t.” – Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989): Arrogant prick Alan Alda makes an ass of himself in front of a national PBS audience.
•    “Should I stop writing … tell funnier jokes.” – Stardust Memories (1980): Woody gets career advice from a band of wise aliens before being jettisoned to Jazz Heaven.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) breaks it down to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.

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