In defence of Woody Allen and his latest film

At the end of a highly personalised review of Woody Allen’s latest film A Rainy Day In New York, the Hollywood Reporter asks whether people will go to see Woody’s films anymore?

In defence of Woody Allen and his latest film
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Subhash K Jha

At the end of a highly personalised review of Woody Allen’s latest film A Rainy Day In New York, the Hollywood Reporter asks whether people will go to see Woody’s films anymore? I don’t know about others. But I will.

I love Woody Allen’s cinema as much as I love blueberry cake. When I go to a confectionery shop, I don’t ask about the bedroom activities of the baker. This is not to say that I disbelieve the charges of sexual indiscretion against the super-prolific director. For all we know, they may be true. But how does that affect Woody’s work, if at 84, he continues to craft compelling curios, vivid vignettes of life from the America suburbia shot through lenses that exude the poetry of the humdrum?

Woody’s latest film A Rainy Day In New York which I just had the privilege of watching, is as heady and intoxicating and exhilarating as ever. It steals you into its lightly-illuminated world of glib-talking sensualists who cerebrate on subjects as widespread as cinema as a tool of change and wives whose laughter desexualises husbands…. Who but Woody can show two young attractive people kissing for an amateur film crew in a rain-splashed car when the girl, the spunky Selena Gomez, complains that the guy isn’t giving tongue to the kiss.

The shy guy who finds it hard to kiss a girl whom he hardly knows is Gatsby played by the upcoming and very happening Timothee Chalamet who plays the archetypal nerdy intellectualised but confused Woody Allen hero. Twenty years ago, Woody would have played Gatsby himself and with a far more pronounced emotional curve.

Chalamet, for all his boyish charms, has become repetitive with his perennial little-boy-lost looks in no time at all. The only time he comes into his own in A Rainy Day … is when he sits down at the piano (can’t separate Chalamet from the piano for too long after Call Me By Your Name) to play and sing ‘Everything Happens To Me’.

Now, that’s magic! This wispy wondrous little film is filled with such moments of glorious epiphany, as Gatsby on a day in New York, waits for his girlfriend Ash Leigh (Elle Fanning) to finish her interview with an eccentric director Ronald Polard (Roman Polanski?) played with stoic arrogance by Liev Schrieber.

As Gatsby kills time, he meets various women who may or may change the course of his life, depending on how we perceive Woody Allen’s philosophy of loose-limbed human relationships. The writer-director captures sly slices of humour in how seriously people take themselves when confronted by situations that confer undue importance on them.

A Rainy Day In New York may not be among Woody’s best works. Manhattan (1979) which was located in the same part of world, was a far more ambitious and satisfying search for salvation in New York city. And yet A Rainy Day In New York is a juicy deep bite into the Big Apple. It teases and seduces our senses into a state of semi-hypnotism.

To answer the original question: Would people see Woody’s films after the MeToo allegations? Of course they will. Would visitors to the World Trade Centre have stayed away after 9/11 if it had survived the attack?

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Published: 15 Dec 2019, 3:30 PM