The last thing I wanted to do was write a piece about Woody Allen.
That might seem disingenuous, since here I am, writing a piece about Woody Allen. But after reading the open letter by Dylan Farrow, published February 1 on Nicholas Kristof’s blog in The New York Times, I would have liked to avoid the subject altogether.
In the piece, Farrow (who now goes by a different name) alleges that “when I was seven years old, Woody Allen took me by the hand and led me into a dim, closet-like attic on the second floor of our house. He told me to lay on my stomach and play with my brother’s electric train set. Then he sexually assaulted me.”
Who wants to think that a beloved filmmaker, comedian and cultural icon could well be a child molester? Who wants to struggle with what that means for our appreciation of his work?
Unfortunately, we don’t really have a choice. And because I’m a critic who writes about Allen’s films, I can’t avoid writing about it, either.
Woody Allen is mulling a return to standup comedy.
Allen’s latest movie, “Blue Jasmine,” comes out next week (stay tuned for my review), and for the occasion Allen did an interview with The New York Times’s Dave Itzikoff, in which he raised the possibility of making a return to the stage. Several of the actors in the film are standup comics — Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K. — prompting Itzikoff to ask if working with comedians ever caused Allen to revisit his own career as a standup. Allen replied:
I was inspired the other night — in the other room here where I play [the Cafe Carlyle at the Carlyle Hotel], I saw Mort Sahl. He flew in from San Francisco, and he worked three late shows and he was wonderful. He’s slowed up a little now because he’s 85. He’s not as rapid as he was when was he was 35. But all the stuff is still there. Watching him, I had the same feeling now, in 2013, as I had when I saw him in 1950-something. Of, “Hey, I’d like to get back onstage and do standup again.” He inspired me then to be a standup comic, and all these years later, I thought of it again because of him. He makes that phenomenon so enticing.
Allen went on to say that he’s now “toying with the idea” of putting together a standup act himself. Hopefully it’ll still be something like this:
Another year, another Woody Allen movie.
Allen’s latest picture, “Blue Jasmine,” is scheduled for a July 26 release, but we can get a sense of it now thanks to a trailer that was released this weekend.
With Cate Blanchett starring as a trophy wife whose husband (Alec Baldwin) turns out to be a Bernie Madoff-esque criminal, it looks like “Blue Jasmine” may be more drama than comedy, returning Allen to mid-career films like “Interiors,” “Another Woman” and “Husbands and Wives.” The fans satirized in Allen’s “Stardust Memories” may have preferred his “early, funny ones,” but given the resounding flop of last year’s “To Rome, With Love,” a return to serious might not be a bad thing.
Watch the trailer for ‘Blue Jasmine’:
Is this supposed to be some kind of metaphor for his career? (Alright, that was a bit cheap.)
Yesterday the Huffington Post put together a clip of every single Woody Allen stammer from every single one of his movies. The whole thing is almost 45 minutes long, and watchable for about 45 seconds. Enjoy for as long as you can stand it (after the jump).
Woody Allen’s new movie “To Rome With Love” is a montage of stories on the titillating streets of the eternal city. Allen (who hadn’t appeared in any of his films since 2006) plays Jerry, a restless, retired opera director whose world collides with Giancarlo, played to hilarity by Italy’s renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato. Roberto Benigni is Leopoldo, a Joe Schmoe suddenly and inexplicably stalked by paparazzi. Alec Baldwin is a scene-stealer as John, a famous-yet-embittered architect on vacation doling out hard-won romantic advice to Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who gets tangled up with Monica (Ellen Page) while he’s already living with Sally (Greta Gerwig). Penélope Cruz is smokin’ as an Italian hooker in a red-hot dress.
The Arty Semite caught up with Woody Allen to ask him about acting, editing and the stupid questions he gets from the press.
Dorri Olds: There are funny scenes in “To Rome With Love” about idiotic questions from the press. What are the worst questions you’ve been asked?
Woody Allen: I don’t think we have enough time to answer that. When I walk through those red carpet things, I’ve been asked, “Is Penelope Cruz your new muse?” If I make one picture with somebody they assume that I have a muse, that I want a muse, and that person wants to be my muse. There are millions of questions that are really stupid.
What is it about Rome that appealed to you?
Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity
By Joel Stein
Grand Central Publishing, 304 pages, $26.99
Was it possible for Joel Stein to get through his new book, “Man Made: A Stupid Quest for Masculinity,” without mentioning Judaism? Of course not. The Time Magazine humor columnist makes it only a few steps into his journey before facing the fraught ties between religion and gender.
“After all that camping and firefighting, I am happy to relax in the comfort of a fellow Jew,” he writes, after arriving to learn how to throw and hit a baseball with retired L.A. Dodgers slugger, Shawn Green. “Woody Allen has made neurotic, frail, high-strung Jews seem like all we’ve got, but I don’t blame my lack of manliness on my religion. Not only are there tanned, Uzi-toting, unsmiling, Maccabee-tough Israelis, but there are the haggling, arguing, lawyering Jews that Larry David has brought back.”
Though he fires an M240 machine gun by book’s end, Stein undoubtedly belongs to the Woody Allen School of Jewish Men.
Difficult to believe but all these things seem to be actually in the news. It must be Purim.
Woody Allen is going to pimp out John Turturro in Turturro’s new movie. They both live in a Hasidic neighborhood and they use the names Virgil and Bongo to avoid suspicion. Can’t wait to see “Fading Gigolo.”
Where do you go to see ice in April? Jerusalem, of course. Chinese ice sculptors headed to Israel for the Jerusalem Ice Festival.
Shimon Peres went to Facebook headquarters in search of a new avenue to peace. Or just for a little peace himself, not clear exactly which.
Perhaps more credible is the Backward, featuring Bar Refaeli’s Yo-Yo burka, the Samson juicing controversy and the Goldfarb bar mitzvah review.
Television drama “Homeland” — based on the Israeli series “Hatufim,” by Gideon Raff — took home the Golden Globe award January 15 for Best Television Series. The show stars Claire Danes as CIA officer Carrie Mathison, as well as Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, Mathison’s CIA mentor.
In an interview in October with The Arty Semite, Patinkin noted that the relationship between the two characters is “a bit like the Oscar Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim father-son, student-teacher relationship. If there was a terrorist incident and her life was at risk, he would give his, given his belief that she could save millions and is his greatest hope for tikkun olam [repairing the world].”
Other winners at the Golden Globes included Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” for Best Screenplay (reviewed on The Arty Semite here and included in the Forward Fives here) and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” — which I wrote about for the Forward here — for Best Animated Feature Film.
At 81, Brooklyn-born screenwriter and director Paul Mazursky may be most familiar to some HBO-TV viewers as Sunshine, the ill-fated poker dealer in “The Sopranos” and Norm, strictly unamused by Larry David’s antics in “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” A new book, “Paul on Mazursky,” out from Wesleyan University Press this fall, reminds us that Mazursky’s varied talents add up to a memorable legacy of filmmaking.
The book consists of softball questions from author Sam Wesson, creating a wholly uncritical aura noticeably absent from Mazursky’s 1999 memoirs, “Show Me the Magic” from Simon & Schuster. Mazursky’s finest work combines pitilessly perceptive laughs with emotional understanding, such as 1968’s “I Love You, Alice B. Toklas,” 1969’s “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice,” 1974’s “Harry and Tonto,” 1976’s “Next Stop, Greenwich Village,” 1984’s “Moscow on the Hudson” and 1986’s “Down and Out in Beverly Hills.” Mazursky has produced his share of duds, although his artistic success rate is higher than those of either Mel Brooks or Woody Allen, to cite two near-contemporaries.
Image courtesy of PBS
Woody Allen has always been something of an enigma, slipping effortlessly and Zelig-like from one persona to the next.
He started as a gag and television writer (most famously for Sid Caesar), became an extremely successful stand-up comic, wrote humorous essays for The New Yorker (many of which were collected into best-selling books), played jazz clarinet, wrote Broadway plays, metamorphosed into a screenwriter-director of lowbrow, Catskill-style comedies, and then of increasingly serious (and occasionally less accessible) work.
And oh yes, he married his girlfriend’s adopted daughter.
Novelist Alice Walker explains why she is sailing to Gaza.
The New York Times profiles Idan Raichel, Israel’s “musician of the decade.”
JWeekly profiles the Ridin’ Chai Motorcycle Club of Northern California.
In Souciant, The Arty Semite contributor Joel Schalit writes about Public Enemy in Arabic.
In Tablet, The Arty Semite contributor Shulem Deen writes about his journey from Hasid to Hipster Brooklyn.
Woody Allen has announced that his next film, “The Bop Decameron,” will be set in Rome and will star Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg and Ellen Page.
Courtesy of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival
Talk about baring all for your art. German-Jewish director Dani Levy does Woody Allen one better in “Life Is Too Long,” which made its North American premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival in May. A dyspeptic “Stardust Memories,” “Life Is Too Long” both exposes Levy’s fragile psyche and skewers family and friends with gleeful abandon. But Levy goes even further, literally revealing himself in a dream-sequence pickle shot that raises the stakes for self-disclosure.
With the production of a new film as the story’s binding thread, Levy takes us through several breakdowns — his marriage, his nerves, his work — via alter ego Alfi Seliger, played by the director himself. A has-been director whose film “Your Blue Miracle” was the hit of 1995, Seliger’s now flogging a disastrous-sounding screenplay — inspired by the Danish cartoon controversy — called “Moha-ha-med.” Colleagues dismiss him, his kids ignore him, and his voiceover-artist wife’s cheating on him with her boss; even worse, his bank’s tanking and he may have a fatal illness. Major Existential Crisis ensues.
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
In his new movie, “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen did what he does best. He created a character out of a city and added his signature sleight-of-hand magic. Think “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” when a handsome leading man steps through a screen to romance a depression-era Mia Farrow, or “Zelig,” when the title character appears on the nightly news with the Pope and Calvin Coolidge.
“Midnight in Paris,” which premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this month and opens in limited release May 20, reverberates with that same abracadabra wish fulfillment. “I always feel that only a magical solution can save us,” Allen said in an interview with L.A. Weekly. “The human predicament is so tragic and so awful that, short of an act of magic, we’re doomed.”
“Beaufort” director Joseph Cedar has made a splash at Cannes with “Footnote,” a film about a competitive father-son pair of Talmudists.
The LABA fellows at the 14th street Y will culminate their year-long journey into eros with the LABA festival, starting tonight.
The National Yiddish Book Center is raising money to restore a collection of recorded Yiddish books.
The Independent takes a look at Habonim, the Socialist Zionist youth group that was once home to Mike Leigh, David Baddiel and Sacha Baron Cohen.
The Brooklyn Rail revisits the work of Russian Jewish filmmaker Dziga Vertov, on the occasion of a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art.
The shame of Shylock: Patrick Stewart, Anthony Sher and others tell what it’s like to play Shakespeare’s most infamous role.
Filmmaker Ethan Coen is set to publish his second poetry collection, titled “The Day the World Ends,” next near.
Shtetl Magazine reviews “The Joyful Child” by Montreal novelist Norman Ravvin.
NPR profiles mother-daughter klezmer duo Elaine Hoffman Watts and Susan Watts.
Woody Allen spills the beans on life in show business.
Sidney Lumet, the acclaimed director more than 50 films, died April 9 in Manhattan at the age of 86.
Best known for taut psychodramas such as “Serpico” (1973), “Dog Day Afternoon” (1975), “Network” (1976) and “The Verdict” (1982), Lumet’s work demonstrated an enduring interest in social realism and the difficulty of obtaining justice, a concern he attributed to his Jewish upbringing.
“The Jewish ethic is stern, unforgiving, preaching, moralistic. And I guess it starts you thinking like that at an early age,” he told film scholar Gordon Gow in a 1975 interview.
Lumet also adapted many well-known works of theater for the screen, including Eugene O’Neill’s “Long Day’s Journey into Night,” Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” and Tennessee Williams’s “Orpheus Descending” as “The Fugitive Kind.”
A version of this post appeared in Yiddish here
On March 12 the Yiddish theater lost one of its most beloved stars. Shifra Lerer, an Argentine-born actress who toured the world and who later appeared in films by Woody Allen and Sidney Lumet, died in Manhattan at the age of 95.
I met Shifra during my first — and last — foray as a Yiddish actor for the Yiddish National Theatre in 1980. Lerer was among the founders of the troupe, which was created to ensure the future of Yiddish theater in America. The experience was a shock for me. I was literally stupefied by the sight of 80-year-old actors screaming curses at 70-year-olds backstage. Their talents were great, but so were their egos and eccentricities. Shifra, by contrast, was an island of calm and rectitude, earning everyone’s respect.
Lerer was born in Argentina, on a Jewish colony in the Pampas, on August 30, 1915. As a child she showed a precocious talent for the theater, and was discovered at age 5 by the famous Yiddish actor Boris Thomashefsky. She soon began acting with other renowned theater figures such as Zigmund Turkov, Samuel Goldenberg and Jacob Ben-Ami, with whom she performed in dramas such as Peretz Hirschbein’s “Green Fields” and H. Leivik’s “The Poet Who Became Blind.”
The latest issue of Habitus features eight poems by Esther Dischereit.
The winners of the 2011 Rappaport Prize, a one million dollar award given annually to two Israel painters, have been announced.
Woodie Allen talks about his controversial marriage.
Cynthia Ozick accepts the Jewish Book Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
For many Jews and non-Jews, American Jewish culture is defined by stereotypes such as the pushy mother, the shleppy father, chopped liver swans, too much food (“just in case…”) accountants, doctors, and holidays in the Catskills or Florida. But a new generation of Jews are so hip, Americanized and assimilated that they are not even familiar with those stereotypes. They may think, for example, that Bar Kochba is the name of a nightclub — at least according to Ellis Weiner and Barbara Davilman in “The Big Jewish Book for Jews.” The authors of “Yiddish With Dick and Jane,” Weiner and Davilman will make you chuckle, cause you to give away that Holocaust memoir, and maybe even teach you something about American-Jewish cultural history in the 19th and 20th centuries.