Magazine article The American Conservative

Field Trip from Woody World

Magazine article The American Conservative

Field Trip from Woody World

Article excerpt


[Match Point]

Field Trip From Woody World

NONE OF WOODY ALLEN'S three dozen movies has made more than $40 million at the box office, and the last one to do that well was "Hannah and Her Sisters" two decades ago.

Yet Woody's reputation among film critics and Academy Award voters remains curiously exalted His screenplay nomination for his new film "Match Point" gives him 20 directing and screenwriting Oscar nods, putting him one past Billy Wilder ("Some Like It Hot" and a host of other movies more memorable than anything Woody has done) to make him, theoretically, the greatest auteur ever.

In reality, Woody is more like the Pete Rose of the movies-not quite gifted enough to swing for the fences, but due to a prodigious work ethic-"Eighty percent of success is showing up," he claims-he has amassed a remarkable number of singles and the occasional double.

Lately, though, Woody has generated mostly strikeouts like last spring's "Melinda and Melinda," in which the only entertainment derived from the self-parody of casting big Will Ferrell as the Woody Allen character.

Fortunately, "Match Point," while hardly the second coming of Ingmar Bergman and Alfred Hitchcock rolled into one, as some critics have predictably enthused, is at least an infield single. If you chance upon it on TV someday, you probably won't recognize it as a Woody Allen movie, although a little pretentious philosophizing about the meaninglessness of the universe might give it away. Both Woody and the surplus celebrities who infest most of his films are missing from it. "Match Point" is neither a comedy nor one of Woody's unwatchable pseudo-Nordic gloomathons. Instead, it's a genre flick, a competently made if surprisingly generic erotic thriller in the tradition of 1985's "The Jagged Edge," complete with that oldest cliché of the format, the adulterous tennis pro.

Yet knowing it's by Woody makes "Match Point" more likeable because it's gratifying to see a 70-year-old legend industriously climb out of the ruts he's fallen into.

For example, ever since 1979's "Manhattan," umpteen of his movies have been set in Woody World-that luminous alternate universe where New York culturati own showcase apartments, dally all afternoon in romantic tourist sites scoured of unsightly tourists, and never worry about the price of anything. …

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