There are many times throughout my film education that I felt like I was a bad film student. There are classic I had never seen, there are movies that I didn't like, and there are people I didn't understand the hype behind. One person falls underneath all three of these categories: Woody Allen. I have seen a few of his films, but I haven't tried to catch up on most. I'm not a fan of his neurotic characters, and I get annoyed with them pretty quickly. I definitely don't see him as the film god that so many others do. When I heard that Jewels of the Wasteland was doing one of his films, I figured i owed it to my film self to try once more to get on the band wagon. I won't say I'm completely convinced, but I do have a different perspective now.
Another Woman is a film about a woman who overhears a woman's therapy session through the vents of an apartment she's subleasing as an office. While hearing this mystery woman's breakthroughs, she starts to reevaluate her life and how she ended up where she is. It has a ridiculously talented cast, which seems to be a regular part of any Woody Allen film, and stars Gena Rowlands, Ian Holm, Mia Farrow, Gene Hackman, and others. It's not necessarily what I would have expected from a Woody Allen film, but there are elements that I was not surprised to see, and this mix is what I think allowed me to expand my perception of his body of work. I still am not a fan of his, but I do see where his filmatic importance comes into play within the film world.
My 'eye opening experience,' if you will, about Allen's role in film history happened because Richard Linklater had an open discussion with the audience, others who like Allen's film as much as Linklater does. I did feel out of place to begin with, even if I was the only one who knew about my dislike, but that changed throughout the discussion. That's why these discussions are so vital for anyone involved in film, either as a maker or a fan. Conversations opens unexpected doors about the way you see things because someone else has a different perspective. Sometimes we need help getting out of our own creative mind, and being able to be open with others is a huge step in doing that.
I finally became aware and noticed the beautiful elements of Allen's films. I noticed the care he put into his shots, into the world that the cinematography opens for the viewer. Every scene was crafted in such a way that was specific for that moment, for that character in the story. You could tell there was care put into the world we are seeing, and not seeing, of this story. The amount of time spent on one view and the way the characters were able to grow, for lack of a better word, through the scene presented an interesting view of their life and how they saw themselves.
It's telling how, at times, our own prejudice can affect how we view other people's work. In my lack of understanding the love so many share for Allen, I was blind to the fact that his films are in fact beautiful. He has an interesting way of looking at the world, and that deserves credit. Some of that might be because he himself has a limited scope of the world, that he lives in a very concentrated world of his own making, but it is unique. He has a very romantic view of the world, sometimes it's not necessarily accurate, but one that many people strive for. For some, even if it's a non-realistic view, it's a world they want to escape to.
With that said, I still can't fall in line with the fanbase. I will be honest, it might entirely have to do with the drama he's encountered in his personal life, but I can't fall in love with his stories (except Midnight in Paris). For me, the world he resides in is not appealing to me. I can't find a way to connect to the characters, even with the women, because they are out of reach for me perspectively. I also don't feel satisfied with the women he portrays. I don't believe he has a well-rounded view on what women go through daily. Like his environment, there is a romance to the woman the portrays, the edges are a little too pristine to occupy the real world. It's as if these women are what should inhabit the world, and in reality they are not. They are film version of what a woman should be like, to be frank they feel as man is writing woman, which is exactly the case. Yes, he is a good writer, but he does not, in my opinion, write women well.
Yet, somehow, he is able to cast women who can bring forth an amazing woman on screen. I have not seen Rowlands in a film like this, and was blown away by her acting. She was able to bring a depth and complicate life to a character that I feel like only lived on the surface of the page. All of the cast did a great job expanding beyond what the words presented them with, but there was still something missing.
I couldn't help but think, what would this film be like in another person's hands? If there was a more introspective writer, like Alex Garland or Joss Whedon, would the film thrive? Or if someone like Danny Boyle or Wong Kar-Wai translated words to images, would the film dive into unexpected depths? I've never really tried to imagine what a film would be like under different management (except Ant-Man, but I love Edgar Wright, so that's a bit different). A film is what it is because of who is at the helm, and it's disrespectful to try to imagine it in another way. I know that my criticism of the man behind the camera has influenced my film appreciation, I also know this is not civil way to view it, but I can't help myself. The question ultimately become, then, is my dislike preventing me from seeing a film master, or does it, in fact, prevent me from being veiled by the overrated praise?
No matter what, though, this film was important on many unexpected levels. I enjoyed it, and was finally able to see aspects of a Woody Allen film that I was blind to before. It also allowed me to own and be okay with the fact that I am still not a fan.
Written by Lisa Mejia