Friday, September 25, 2020

Something about Woody Allen's autobiography

I recently finished reading Woody Allen's autobiography, Apropos of Nothing. This isn't going to be a review of the book, which I'll probably get to jotting my thoughts down on later. I did have to note an interesting point he made about his filmmaking, though. When he made Interiors in 1978, his Bergmanesque family drama set in the Hamptons, it was about as different from his previous comedies as could be. But his producers supported him in his desire to make the film. Allen says in the book that he always wanted to make dramatic films, and that his early comedies provided a gateway into filmmaking for him to be able to do what he always wanted.

This is something I've always admired about Allen's films: he makes the films he wants to make, and even though he's obviously best known for his brilliant comedies, he has never backed away from making different kinds of films. I don't just mean the clear separation between his comedies and dramas, either, but the many tones he strikes in between. Even comedies like Zelig and Hannah and Her Sisters are in many ways as different from each other as an out-and-out slapstick comedy like Sleeper is from a chilly drama like September.

I've come to appreciate this aspect of Allen's films increasingly over the years, especially with his recent work -- such as Irrational Man and Cafe Society -- that I actually find to be some of his most interesting films in a long time.

I was recently talking with someone about this, and I made the point that a difference I see with European filmmakers compared with their Hollywood counterparts is that, in Europe, directors are often far more prolific. I've really been struck by this in going through the entire filmographies of directors like Bergman or Fassbinder, who created so many films over the course of their careers.

Just going off of this generalization, one result of this is that a European director's filmography may be more inconsistent, but it is often more interesting for me, because they have more room to experiment with different types of films, and it is often the minor works in between the established masterpieces that I actually end up finding most interesting. Among American directors, I would say that Sidney Lumet and Woody Allen have enjoyed these kinds of highly prolific careers. In Woody Allen's case, much as I admire his classics like Annie Hall or Crimes and Misdemeanors or Hannah and Her Sisters, it is often the less-acclaimed films that I find myself drawn to, because you see him working through ideas and stylistic choices that may not always work, but are always interesting.

No comments: