It seems like Old Times

4 Aug

Ahh the beautiful breathtaking city montages to the melodies of Gershwin and you can almost hear Elliot’s Pufrock in your mind, the city sprawling on the screen and your heart skips a beat mesmerized in the magic of cinema. The next scene cuts to a questioning pitiful little man, wondering about the purpose of life, death, beauty and happiness almost finding it, almost losing it. But the story is not about this man, it is about the viewer who finds himself in the unlikeliest of heroes: the man on the screen. Why do I love Woody Allen movies? Because you can watch every movie a hundred times and still find a new allusion, a new line that rings a bell, a new time that you can feel a part of however old the movie becomes.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all about espionage thrilling action movies seldom liking chick flicks even if they are now labelled golden age classics. But for my top two W. Allen picks I have two glorious love stories between men and their ideas sometimes manifesting as women, sometimes as art, and sometimes even as cities.
I wish I could make this article an expert insight into the psyche of W. Allen a somewhat controversial genius: a musician, a screenwriter, an actor, director, writer and intellectual. But given the days of heavy Mumbai rains and cancelled social committments maybe you can curl up in bed with some hot coffee and watch Annie Hall and Midnight in Paris and discover/rediscover the lights in your present and past. I pick these movies as one of his earlier great works and his recent masterpiece.

“Mom : Tell doctor Flicker why you are depressed Alvy? Its something he read.
Alvy: The universe is expanding. The universe is everything and If it is expanding then one day it will break apart and that will mean the end of everything.”
-Young Alvy who had a reasonably happy childhood growing up in a Jewish family in Brooklyn during WW2
Needless to say young Alvy grew up to be a nervous self doubting, old man with very similar thoughts , cautious and hostile with a constant need to reduce everyone around him to a cultural sterotype. Enter Annie an extremely loopy, experimentative girl who dabbles in music and ‘photography with only a feel for it, just do it without thinking too much’. Sparks fly, there is an unlikely love which like all good things, fades. But the beauty of the movie is how Woody Allen breaks the fourth wall by directly addressing the audience and bystanders in the scenes to get involved in the questions he is pondering. W. Allen sketches his characters very diligently implying social commentary and building on Alvy’s contradicting thoughts. Pseudo intellectuals constantly steal Alvy’s thunder and yet he pushes Annie into becoming one and is afraid of the independance he pushed her into having. Then there are not-so- grand emotional moments of patching up after a breakup over killing a spider at 3am in Annie’s apartment. But the heart of the movie is Diane Keaton as the beautiful luminous Annie Hall, so easy to laugh at, laugh with and fall in love with. Watch the movie for a realistic, amusing take on romance in modern times.

 W. Allen has made many successful movies in a so many genres : mysteries like ‘Match Point’, period parodies like ‘Love and Death’, musicals like ‘Everybody says I love you’, and dramas like ‘You will meet a Tall Dark Stranger’ and comedies like ‘Scoop’. Refer to link for a complete list of his movies to explore in good time. Another personal recommendation is Manhattan and his bit in New York Stories along with Coppola and Scorsese.

His most recent work is Midnight in Paris unfortunately for all of us in Mumbai yet to release here and in my limited search not easily available online. But I recommend you to put this on your wishlist. Here is why:

Gil is the new alter ego Allen introduces in this movie set in Paris through the ages. A Hollywood writer vacationing with his classy practical fiancée, mesmerized by the city, in love with the art, culture and museums, all grandeurs of the past, and trying hard to find his place among pretentious, dogmatic characters of his present who refuse to believe in his reveries of leaving his home and settling down as a writer in the city of lights. He is working on a book with the protagonist who runs a nostalgia shop connecting our golden age heroes Degas and Baudeleire to buyers who love the past through memorabilia. However, while the story would end for an ordinary character , it sort of begins with magic for our Gil. On the stroke of midnight on a lonely Parisian square Gil gets into a cab that takes him to Paris in the 1920s. Enter the roaring 20s, big jazz bands, flappers and high society literary couple the Z. And S. Fitzgeralds having brilliant soirees in Paris socializing with Ernest Hemingway and Picasso painting and Gertude Stein critiquing and being agony aunt to all these tormented artists. Gil moves from circle to circle meeting Salvadore Dali, Man Ray, and getting Hemmingway to read his book. Every night is a ball, everyone is beautiful and brilliant and yet our hero knows that come morning, 2010 is bland and worn out. Yet his luck changes on meeting the ardent and beautiful Adriana: Picasso’s muse, Hemmingway’s passion and who yet falls for the boyish charm of Gil. Adriana a student of fashion alongwith Coco Chanel is as sigh disdainful of her present as Gil and craves for Belle Epoque the golden age of the impressionists. As the story progresses and you wonder throughout if you could but catch a glimpse of Moulin Rouge and Lautrec, Gaugain, Maupassant..Well you do! Adriana and Gil transported deeper into Paris’s past realize that every age craves for another age.
The subtlety in the storyline is not its grandeous outlook on Paris and the wonderful golden ages. It is in fact, in my opinion, a way for W. Allen to pay homage to the past that connects its beauty with the present. Gil learning the folly of his fantasy, returns to the present and meets a girl who in the present works in an old record store and realizes that Paris is indeed alive and beautiful even in the present, and not buried in the glories of the past in museums and art galleries.

Disclaimer : If you don’t read/know the above works, kindly resist temptation to watch it on a first date with someone who does.

So there you go : The most PSEUDO INTELLECTUAL things to do when you are on vacation and have overdosed on caffeine and alcohol! It seems like Old times having you to walk with..

To grow more intellectual and pretentious refer to:
Anushree is listening to Damnesia Alkaline Trio’s new album and is frustrated at not having links to download midnight in paris to enlighten her sad friends.  Catch her at Hard Rock Cafe, Mumbai tonight jamming to this new band K has discovered!


One Response to “It seems like Old Times”

  1. Kunal August 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Someone get me these movies!!

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