Monday, November 24, 2008

Woody Allen to Perform, Tour Poland

Place this in the curiosity bin.

It's being reported that Woody Allen will tour Poland in conjunction with a performance of his band.

While Allen is often regarded as quintessentially "Jewish," whatever that means, it's actually odd to think of him in those terms. Not that he's the Harry Block character from Deconstructing Harry, a Jewish man whose sister demurs his "antisemitism." It's just that Allen's art transcends ethnic constraints.

Maybe it's a subjective blindness, but I identify Allen more in terms of creative ancestry than ethnic ancestry---more in terms of Marx, Bergman, and Fellini. Put differently, while I recognize that Allen's aesthetic sense owes something significant to his biography, I've never seen his work as steeped in a kind of caricatured "Jewishness."

Whatever the case, it will be interesting to hear Allen's reflections on his tour. He is a man whose perspective on life could be described as immutable; one of Allen's charms is observing how his near-static aesthetic and existential identity plays against the loud, dynamic backdrop of modern life. In a recent review of Mere Anarchy, Jordan Hoffman describes it this way:

If you love the ramblings of a thousand year old Jewish man as much as I do, you’ll love this book. It’s as good as Allen’s other three short (and I mean short!) story collections. But, maybe, in a way funnier, in that it is the year 2008 and he’s talking about answering services and EST.

The more out of touch Woody is, the more endearing, I say. He mocks California as a state overrun by new age shysters with names like Galaxie Sunstroke. His tales of film producers aren’t of slick young people in fashionable clubs, but Yiddish-speaking momsers kvetching over derma.

We shouldn’t wonder what happened to Woody to make him seem irrelevant. Instead we should ask where did we, as a culture, go wrong that we’re not on his wavelength anymore.

People, whether famous or unknown, often return from such "tours" in a stirred state of disbelief. They look back on the carnage of history with more questions than answers. Such stirrings would be unexpected from a man who once penned, "Given what human beings are, the question is why doesn't it [atrocity] happen more often." We know that Allen will not give himself to the temptation of celebrity, of sensationalizing his impressions to assuage a deeply held sense of self-importance. But we also know he would not paper-over one of Western civilization's great horrors.

All things considered, his Polish tour has the makings of a good interview.

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