In a simultaneously surprising yet strangely predictable admission of mediocrity, Woody Allen has revealed in an interview with The Australian that he doesn’t think his filmmaking career has been up to snuff for the past, oh, forty years or so…
“Many of the films are enjoyable by the mean standards of movies, but look at what has been accomplished by people who have done beautiful things – Kurosawa, Bergman, Fellini, Bunuel, Truffaut – and then look at my films. I have squandered my opportunities and I have nobody to blame but myself.”
Oddly enough, I recall reading something similar from the likes of Francis Ford Coppola, griping that he too squandered his opportunity to become an auteur filmmaker of consequence. The specific example of a filmmaker’s career he most admired? Woody Allen’s. I’m 99% that he said something along the lines of “Let’s put it this way: Woody Allen would never have made a John Grisham movie.”
I didn’t think the Rainmaker was that bad, but I was also about twelve when I saw it.
However, for any writer who wished they could possess a tenth of the creative reputation either of these two men can lay claim to, you have to wonder if this should be either vaguely comforting, or depressing. Or neither perhaps, because of course it makes sense that every titan of film is still a fragile, vulnerable, neurotic human creature. That’s where they got all that insecurity that drove them to be artists in the first place, right? Right?
So then it shouldn’t really be surprising that Woody Allen thinks his movies are mostly crap. The only thing that makes it surprising is the candid and sort of reckless way Allen discounts most of his movies without any pause or perceived hesitation. As if he doesn’t have a slew of fans who would rather die a thousand deaths before ignoring the importance of Annie Hall’s impact on modern cinema. Or something.
Now, I wouldn’t call myself a big fan of Woody Allen’s movies. I appreciate what he’s done, and I’m endlessly thankful that his tireless efforts have rendered beautiful women capable of finding short, neurotic, Jewish men with deficiencies of confidence and tact somehow alluring…but still…
I think mostly, I’ve always just loved the idea of him, this little creative genius, cranking out film after film, decade after decade. Some were good, some were bad, but he never really stopped, which is wild. Just looking down his IMDb profile, I realize I’d be impressed if I had produced as many YouTube videos as this guy’s produced actual feature films.
“There are a few better than others, half a dozen, but it’s a surprising paucity of worthwhile celluloid.” So says the man. Come on, now. How can you not be fascinated by a guy that still refers to his life’s work as a pile of celluloid? I guess a little paucity is all you need to be a legend, then. And possibly a whole lot of dreck too.
William Goldman, of legendary Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid fame, probably would have agreed though that most of Woody’s stuff was slop. He’s got pretty high standards for what good writing is, and apparently, he doesn’t fit the bill either:
“You become a writer because somebody of some quality moved you when you were a kid and you thought, ‘Okay, I want to be Chekhov.’ And so you decided to be a playwright, but then when you go into the pit you realize you’re never going to be Chekhov; you’re not going be as good; you’re going to be, in fact, second rate. So right away, your career can never measure up to your brightest hopes… There’s always the sense that what you’re doing is essentially not of great quality, and that’s the sense you have to fight every day.”
Woody Allen thinks he squandered his opportunity. William Goldman seems to suggest he never had any opportunity to begin with. According to Goldman, Woody Allen was perhaps destined to be “a mid-level guy” (His words, not mine.) As are all of us striving to make our mark on this world.
I suppose even Shakespeare had his disappointments. But that’s the point isn’t it? If an artist is totally satisfied with his work, isn’t it time to throw in the towel? Is there anything else you can do if you already said it all?
If only Chekhov could weigh in on this dire mood. What do you say, Chekhov? Any words of encouragement?
“A writer is not a confectioner, a cosmetic dealer, or an entertainer.”
Ouch. We all really missed the mark then, didn’t we? Can you at least leave us with something a little more optimistic? We second-rate writers do tend to be a sour lot, and some words of encouragement could go a long way…
“One usually dislikes a play while writing it, but afterward it grows on one. Let others judge and make decisions.”
So says the master. He’s right, I think. Except about this blog post. This post really should have been way better.