Sunday, March 27, 2005

The appealing trappings of Woody Allen

When I was younger, I liked to describe myself by saying I was very Annie Hall

I didn't really know what that meant considering I had never seen the movie, but it was my way of explaining to others that I was offbeat and interested in things other than boys and dating. I think I told people this when I was 11 years old. Diane Keaton, in her tie and vest, holding a glass of wine on a rooftop in Manhattan, was just the epitome of cool to me. That's the kind of kid I was. But I think there's a part of me that still feels that way. I like to define myself through the books and movies I read, the places I've lived, the art exhibitions I've adored, my favorite albums and my various schools. I have no problem considering myself to be a snob. As long as you realize the context. I think this is actually more like Diane Keaton's character in Manhattan. Correction to my 11 year old self.

I'm not alone. Other folks have other fantasy relationships to Woody Allen films. Meghan Daum (My Misspent Youth) longed for Mia Farrow's apartment in Hannah and Her Sisters, somehow thinking that walking barefoot on hardwood floors in a Upper West Side apartment would make her a witty, urbane intellectual. How is it that the trappings make the man? Books and writing may be our solace, but movies truly give us a literal glimpse into lives we wish we had. Maybe some of us relate more to Woody Allen films because we're already neurotic, so it's not such a great stretch to imagine oneself floating around dinner parties charged by canapes and interior monologues.

When I was a kid, I used to also judge people by saying, "They're the kind of person who rehearses their conversations in front of mirrors." I always thought those people were clever, even though my criticism was a definite dig. Watching Melinda and Melinda today, I noticed why it was so hard for me to finally show up in Penn Station with a bulky suitcase and a new address: I thought I could never become so sophisticated as a Woody Allen heroine. They all are the type who rehearse their dinner party dialogue in front of mirrors while changing clothes to find the ensemble that strikes the right mood.

Now I live in Park Slope, Brooklyn (does anyone in a Woody Allen film live in Brooklyn?) and I am grateful I'm not a character in a Woody Allen film. I still like relishing in how aspects of my life are just "so Woody Allen," but that's enough for me. I've lived just enough to know about some of the entanglement that ends up in his films. Life is hardly boring enough to ask for more of that. I'll take the setting without the conflict. Or the older men.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for breaking the monotony; I've been scrolling through random blogs, and this is the first one that's caught my interest -- amazing how blogs tend to run into each other until they're one big adolescent rant. I really enjoyed reading this entry. I thought you made some excellent points; and I especially loved how you said "They're the kind of person who rehearses their conversations in front of mirrors" about certain people. I've been searching for a theater in my area that is playing Melinda and Melinda, but alas, no luck! Anyway, thanks again for a wonderful entry.

~teenyaileeny [at] gmail [dot] com

Sun Mar 27, 12:50:00 AM  
Blogger R J Keefe said...

For years, I wondered if I would ever grow up to be "an intellectual," whatever that meant. Then, one fine day, I realized that whatever anybody else might think, I was certainly intellectual enough to have satisfied many times over my youthful daydreams. In short, these things happen in retrospect only, while you're not trying.

Of course, it never hurts to evaluate your performance after every dinner party, or to go to the right concerts, or to have the right address...

Mon Mar 28, 05:14:00 PM  

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