Saturday, September 27, 2008

Anything Else in Perspective

In his recent talk with Douglas McGrath, Woody Allen said "there was a lot of me" in Anything Else. In the context of the interview, Allen was not saying the film was autobiographical--the omnipresent claim of the lazy critic--but that the film approximated his view of life, an important distinction.

GSF believes that Anything Else is Allen's best film this decade. Yes, better than Match Point. Yes, better than Vicky Cristina Barcelona. It was coolly received by critics, but one critic--we can't remember which one (Roger Ebert?)--intelligently remarked that Anything Else would have received a great reception were it a film by an up and coming director, rather than the old master. Sometimes it's only Woody Allen who can't get away with making a "Woody Allen film."

When we posted the McGrath interview we wrote, "In GSF's opinion it's Allen's best film this decade, and one sure to receive higher marks in retrospective. If you're looking for a little fun, try watching Annie Hall and Anything Else back to back."

Thematically, Annie Hall and Anything Else share an approach to the world, and the characters of Alvy Singer, Jerry Faulk and David Dobel are kindred spirits. Life is understood through the joke that best expresses their predicament, and the jokes are more insightful than any philosophic prattle or some clinical tome on death and dying. Annie Hall and Anything Else are framed by the jokes of their respective opening sequences. But there is more than this, the films share plenty of apparent superficial similarities between characters, plot and dialogue. Who knows Allen's intent, but these things are indisputably there. The similarities are so frequent that there are a few scenes in which when one must assume Allen has become his own plagiarist.

Woody Allen's films frequently pay homage to the titans of European cinema, whether Bergman, Truffaut or Fellini. But while Anything Else contains a subtle tribute to The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, it is mostly content to pay tribute to a titan of American cinema: Woody Allen.

At this point, we're tempted to roll out a column of bullets matching the films point by point, but we'll resist the spoilers and let you chase them down.

Maybe its analysis paralysis, but we're not the only ones who've noticed this strikingly obvious connection. Tony Nigor of Flak Magazine offers up a worthwhile perspective that can't help but see the two films standing in the light of the other. While we aren't convinced that Nigor's reading is spot-on, it does see the parallel clearly. Once you've read Nigor, que up Annie Hall and Anything Else for a private screening.

1 comment:

ael said...

Anything Else, Scoop, & VCB are probably his best this decade, but I'm not sure that's saying much.

The Annie Hall, etc., references/ripoffs in Anything Else were what brought it down for me...I found it to be a tired rehash. I found it improved on the small screen--perhaps I was used to Biggs/Ricci, or perhaps the cinematography is too bright, or I was just relieved I wasn't paying $8.00 to see the film.

Good blog, thanks for doing it.