[movie theatres are] temples for the cowards of life...

Mon, 21 Oct 2013 16:09:00 BST

Wednesday 6 November 2013 at 15:15 in JM2/04

Dr Martin Hall (Hull)

‘[movie theatres are] temples for the cowards of life...’: How Woody Allen’s magical-realist rejection of the harsh realities of life has coloured his filmmaking


As a director who is remembered largely for his unmatched work ethic, having worked steadily and produced one film a year since the mid ‘70s, Woody Allen has received a great deal of public attention of late. From Robert B. Weide’s Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012), to the scandalous attention regarding his and ex-wife Mia Farrow’s son, Allen is currently experiencing somewhat of a resurgence in media attention. This is perhaps owing to the fact that Midnight in Paris (2011), his 42nd film, has been his most financially successful film to date, and that Blue Jasmine (2013), his latest film, was called ‘a triumphant return to form’ by The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.

This work will read Allen’s films as relying on magic-realist elements to provide a retreat into the comfort of fantasy, as the character who steps out of the movie screen says in The Purple Rose of Cairo, ‘In my world the people are consistent. You can rely on them’. It is interesting to examine the career of this enormously well renowned director and map out the progression that has brought him to this point. Through specific close analysis of the films Annie Hall (1977), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Scoop (2006), Midnight in Paris (2011) and To Rome with Love (2012), and through critically engaging with Allen’s methods and approaches, I intend to question what it is which propels this cinematic polymath and through which milestones can one trace his career?

In an endeavour to explore a rationalisation for his magic-realist interest, this paper will address the reading of the use of this magic-realism within these films as a shield against what Allen terms ‘the harsh realities of life’ (Allen, 1995:149). As a filmmaker whose characters are often seen to embody such values as expressed by Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer – ‘I have a certain difficulty, some trouble between reality and fantasy’ – Woody Allen is often read as dealing primarily with existentialist themes in reaction to his misanthropic dissatisfaction. As Allen has said about our position in life that it is ‘the only interesting theme to me’ (Allen, 1995:209), it is these sentiments which I shall explore in evidencing this prodigious director’s approach to filmmaking.

Seminars programme: http://hud.ac/ok

Contact: M.Klontzas@hud.ac.uk

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