Witty but woebegone

Woody Allen rant

If 2016 was the year of celebrity deaths, 2017 was surely the annum of celebrity downfalls.

Sparked by the toppling of one of Hollywood’s most prolific alleged sex pests Harvey Weinstein, an entire balustrade of power-wielding, pussy-grabbing men has come tumbling down in recent months; Kevin Spacey, Louis CK and Brett Ratner head up a very lengthy list. Of course, the most powerful man on the planet has had many a finger pointed in his orange direction, but so far, to no avail…as has another wormy, smarmy, self-obsessed star.

For some bizarre reason, Woody Allen is still being allowed to make movies. Every fucking year. Despite having been openly accused of kiddy fiddling by his own adopted kiddy, and then going on to marry another adopted kiddy, the man still is given free rein to populate our cinemas with inane, pseudo-intellectual babble about himself, his ego and his unquenchable libido. Hell, Allen has even come out in support of the unanimously maligned Weinstein, causing chip-off-the-old-block Donny Trump Jnr to wade into these murkiest of waters and slam the weedy, wordy, whiny comic. When The Donald’s spawn is providing the voice of reason, you know you’re headed up thon creek without thon paddle.

Now, these allegations against Allen are of course highly disturbing, and shouldn’t be trivialised or swept under the carpet. But there is a case to be made for the idea that the personal life of an artist shouldn’t interfere in the appreciation of their artistry. Throughout history, genius scumbags have gotten off scot-free with their scumbaggery precisely because they were capable of rising above it in their professional life. Caravaggio was a do-badder of the highest order, Picasso reputedly bullied and battered the fairer sex and Michael Jackson’s status as the King of Pop was briefly compromised by his inability to stay away from the royal play pen. Despite this, all three are hailed as prodigies and virtuosos – and they’re by no means the only ones. Hindsight in particular has a habit of encouraging us to look past a man’s faults and assess his creative output apart.

Applying that dictum to Allen, we can shelve the (unproven) allegations about inappropriately touching his seven-year-old foster daughter Dylan and the (very much proven) allegations about inappropriately cheating on his partner with her latest adoptee Soon-Yi and inappropriately marrying said adoptee at a later date. Put the philandering and paedophiliac accusations aside, and assess the man’s art with the cold, analytical eye of a movie lover…and the point still stands. How the fuck is this man still being allowed to make movies?

For one thing, he has a serious hard-on for the Big Apple. Sure, no problem; New York is a vibrant city, who wouldn’t love to live there? The thing is, Woody does live there – and he won’t fucking shut up about it. He has 77 writing credits and almost as many directorial credits on IMDb, and the vast majority of those are set in or around the iconic US city. Sure, he had a brief spell over the last decade where he tried to branch out with stories set in major European metropoles like Barcelona, Paris and Rome – but he’s returned to his old stomping ground of late. There’s a new movie in the pipeline for 2018, too. Of course there fucking is. Guess what it’s called. A Rainy Day in New York. Shock horror.

Indeed, that title could even be a microcosm for the career of this cringe-inducing cynical upstart with a preoccupation for all things sexual, especially if it involves far prettier and far younger things than himself. Allen never tires of casting himself in the lead role as a witty but woebegone writer/actor/comic/megalomaniac who is irresistible to the most beautiful ladies Hollywood has to offer. Without doubt, he’ll include more than one wrangling, hand-wringing monologue on the foibles and frustrations of modern life, pretending to address hard-hitting philosophical questions but really just showing off his ability to construct a wordy shell of a joke without a substantial punchline of an interior. What’s more, nasal kvetching about the injustice of life rings more than a little hollow when it’s delivered inside the grandest of New York apartments, which more often than not feature a grand piano or a chaise longue. If things were really that bad, Woody, you’d have put an end to them long ago. A bullet to the head would be infinitely more effective in curbing your woes than squeezing pithy, cynical one-liners out of them.

Yet for all his repetition and irritation, the man is still revered as one of America’s finest directors. He regularly reels in all manner of A-list glitz and glamour to tart up his dreary cinematic turds. How can this happen? How can the flesh-and-blood incarnation of Arty Ziff continue to thrive in the 21st century? Weinsteingate is an opportunity to still Allen’s “busy hands” once and for all, yet his unabating ability to crank out filmic faecal matter by the wheelbarrowload just demonstrates that even the current epoch of scandal and censure isn’t enough to topple this wiry-haired weasel off his perch.

With new stories emerging every day, there’s still time for him to come unstuck – and let’s hope he duly does. If not for his victims, at least for future generations of cinemagoers. For God’s sake, won’t somebody please think of the children?

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