Wednesday, May 10, 2006

WOODY GETS SERIOUS

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Woody Allen's latest film, Match Point, which I caught last night on DVD, is bookended by two quotes about the nature of luck. In the first voice over, we are told than being lucky is more important than being good. The film ends with the birth of a child, who is toasted with a similar wish: that he will grow to be a lucky man, rather than a great one.

But the theme of this story in which ambition and sexual desire turn deadly, concerns something more venal than luck. Like many of Allen's characters, Chris Wilton, an Irish striver who marries into the British aristocracy, seems to have been created to prove a point: Getting what you want is more important than being good. It is a theme that threads through much of Allen's recent work; and how you feel about that premise will most likely decide your opinion of Match Point.

19 comments:

Cate said...

Oh, I want to see that! Thanks for your take. I'm rereading Marion Meade's biography of Allen, and it's a fascinating read--digs deeply into his persona, his accomplishments, his relationships, his "errors." I love many of his movies, however--usually the more serious ones!

Sinéad said...

I'm a huge Woody Allen fan, but I really didn't like Match Point. I was asking myself, once again, why I keep making excuses for Allen's recent films. The last decent thing he did was Mighty Aphrodite.

daisy said...

Hmmm...maybe that's why I don't really care for his films...I think being good is better than riches gained illicitly...

Patry Francis said...

cate: Come back and tell me what you think! Though I disagree with his premise, I found the story compelling. And the biography sounds fascinating.

sinead: Enjoyed your review, which was much more in depth than my snippet. I loved a lot of Woody's films, too, but in recent years, he seems to have lost it. He covered much of the same ground in Crimes and Misdemeanors--and much more effectively. I still didn't agree with his point, but the film had a lasting resonance.

daisy: I agree! So many of the characters in recent films have seemed so empty.

robin andrea said...

I haven't seen a Woody Allen film in years. His art seemed to decline in a corresponding descent with his personal life. I can't seem to separate his personal life from his art, and neither can he. Interesting quotes, though. I think it is better to be a good person than it is to be lucky or great.

* I am using my real first and middle name, I am the blogger formerly known as Rexroth's Daughter!

colleen said...

While I've enjoyed some Woody Allen movies, I also think he's been over-rated in the past. I guess when it comes right down to it, I don't really believe in luck as much as natural consequence.

rdl said...

I see you didn't like it from your comment here, i didn't think so. I used to be a huge Woody Allen fan but haven't seen anything lately.

Laini Taylor said...

I've been wanting to see this movie, but never quite get around to it because of the feeling that though I might think it's GOOD, I most likely won't "like" it -- have to be in the right mood to see a movie about a character you don't quite like. Did you end up liking it?

Patry Francis said...

robin: This was the first Allen film I've seen in years--for exactly the reason you cite. It didn't change my mind.

colleen: natural consequence or karma. Yes, that's what I believe, too.

rdl and laini: You both asked if I liked it. It held me to the end, and left me thinking, so in that sense, yes. On the other hand, I found the protagonist unlikable, and the underlying philosophy abhorrent.

dog1net said...

Patry,
I happen to work with kids who got into a lot trouble believing that getting what you want was more important than being good. Not that getting what you want isn't good, but when it becomes your only objective in life, I think you eventually lose your ability to be empathetic. The irony, though, is that when we stop caring about others, we eventually stop caring about ourselves. Our only concern is focused on our immediate desires, on what we can have right now, regardless of any consequences that might be involved. Allen's films as of late seem to capitulate a certain cynicism within our culture that should make a lot of us take notice. Enjoyed your reflection on this.
Scot

Amishlaw said...

Isn't it interesting how we each get different things from the same work of art -- book, movie, or whatever? I think Woody was criticizing the idea that getting what we want is more important than being good. He did that by shocking us that the bad guy got away with his crime. I agree with one of your other commenters that he made the same point with Crimes and Misdemeanors. Allen does tend to get repetitive with some of his themes. I think the references in the movie to the book, Crime and Punishment, by Dostoevsky, is very important to understanding the movie. Although I don't much like Allen as a person, I liked this movie.

MB said...

I like what dog1net/Scot had to say:
Not that getting what you want isn't good, but when it becomes your only objective in life, I think you eventually lose your ability to be empathetic.
Empathy is incredible important to and for humanity.

MB said...

"incredibly," I meant to say.

Swirly said...

"Getting what you want is more important than being good." My personal philosophy is quite the opposite, but with a bit of a twist. I believe it is important to be a good person (which of course involves my own personal definition of what it means to be a good person), and because I am committed to living my life by certain standards, I am getting someting I want: a clear conscious and a profound sense of satisfaction that I am living my life according to my own ideals and priorities.

Dale said...

To me it depends on whether you can distinguish properly between what you want and what you think you want. Until you can do that, you're better off being good. Otherwise you're liable to spend your days gorging on cake, shooting up, and running off with your foster-daughter, making yourself and everyone else miserable. It all seems like a good idea at the time.

Woody Allen makes me laugh often and think sometimes, but I'd never go to him for advice about how to be happy.

Sky said...

Well, in an unusual twist for me here on this page I have to disagree. My appreciation for films does not always speak to my personal value system. Considering the popularity of action films containing violent-packed hours of entertainment, I think many people are entertained by premises and actions quite unlike the lives they choose to live.

I don't like Allen's choice of lifestyle, find him quirky - to say the least, don't like his usually pessimistic attitude, but find his intelligence and film-making thoroughly fascinating. I don't have to agree with the premise about luck vs goodness or his choices in life to be intrigued by and/or to appreciate his art.

I was totally blown away by Matchpoint - shocked at the way it progressed, angry at the outcome from set-up to end but glued to my seat. In terms of direction, I thought it was about 15 minutues too long, but I was not bored during one moment of it. In fact, my husband and I enjoyed a post-film discussion on how luck can play such a huge role in life. I had been so sure of a different ending!

What Allen did to Mia Farrow and family as he paraded around as a partner and "step-father" is abominable, without a doubt. But, Woody Allen is a brilliant film maker, in my opinion, even if his subject sometimes represents a part of American culture we don't find find pretty.

There are so many films which portray elements of life or contain premises about life which I don't particularly like or agree with but which are remarkable films...American Beauty comes to mind as does Mystic River.

When a film entertains me and also makes me think, examine, and discuss I feel like I have invested my money wisely.

Patry Francis said...

I guess Woody did his job if he triggered this fantastic and multi-faceted discussion. I'll have more to say later, but right now I have to go to bed.

Simply Coll said...

I have yet to see this movie.. but now I am intrigued.

Anonymous said...

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