The Playgoer: WOODY LIVES!

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Friday, May 13, 2005


Wow, A.O. Scott creates real news from Cannes, with his post on the new Woody film. At first I feared this was a sick joke (such cruelty we Woody fans have suffered) but read on...

My head is still spinning. A truly shocking thing happened this morning. I saw a really good Woody Allen movie. Really. But wasn't there just a new Woody Allen movie, like a month ago, you ask. Well yes, and now there's another one. But this one (called "Match Point") is different. It's longer than most of his recent ones have been (more than two hours), with a scratchy old opera record playing over the opening titles instead of a scratchy old jazz record, and it was shot (beautifully, as usual) in London, with a mostly English cast (except for Scarlett Johansson, who plays an expatriate struggling actress from Colorado).

It's also serious, in the manner of "Crimes and Misdemeanors," and marvelously witty. When he's not trying to force out comic dialogue (the one-liners haven't been sharp for at least a decade), the man can really write. Not only at the level of what the people on screen say. This is one of the most crisply and ingeniously plotted American movies I've seen in some time. If there's one thing critics hate, it's a surprise twist, but Mr. Allen planted one near the end of this picture and the audience at the early morning press screening clapped and cheered.

How exciting! Playgoer will come clean and go the record as a lifelong Woody fan. But it's been hard being his apologist for the last, oh, decade. (Especially after his latest morose exercise of a play this year Second Hand Memory. God Bless the Atlantic Theatre Company, though, for making sure one of our national treasures has an artistic home, at least.)... Scott has been as tough as anyone on Woody, but also understanding. (See his March 13 column, "Why We Won't Let Woody Allen Grow Up", now pay-only on

The relative success of Melinda and Melinda--trifling and senseless as it is--marks an interesting, and totally unpredictable upswing. Forget critics and disappointed fans like yours truly--people are actually liking this movie, or else it wouldn't still be playing. Will Allen Konigsberg reinvent himself further with an oddly British tennis saga....?

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