NEWS that Sony Pictures Classics has picked up Woody Allen’s latest picture, Blue Jasmine, hints that the master of manic, hand-wringing humour may yet be allowed in from the cold.
For the past two decades Allen has been a confirmed outsider when it comes to Hollywood and its inhabitants. His movies throughout the ’90s, and certainly into the significant slump that was the Noughties, seemed to lack the comedic fire that showcased the material he had produced in his glory years – which lasted a lot longer for Woody than they did for most directors.
There were flashes of genius in films like Deconstructing Harry.
But a slide into making mediocre dramas and lacklustre thrillers with a European slant seemed to indicate boredom with his comic roots and a disenfranchisement with what he had once done in America.
Then, suddenly, there was Midnight in Paris. This reviewer called it “a gorgeous time travel romance… Allen’s best film in a decade”. Such sentiments were shared around the world.
His supporters crowed in victory. Critics around the world wrote of the second coming of Woody Allen. It was the great comeback. An Oscar nomination for best film didn’t harm it one jot.
It’s worth dwelling on Allen’s Oscar history. Since 1978, he’s been nominated 18 times. He’s been a winner four times: best original screenplay and best picture for Annie Hall; best original screenplay for Hannah and her Sisters; and the same again for Midnight in Paris. Never once has he been present to accept his awards, always sending someone else.
Was this a tiny part of why he was shunned by his Los Angeles cousins? I doubt it. Mud sticks and Allen’s 1992 romance with (and later marriage to) Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his partner Mia Farrow was a scandal that rocked Tinseltown to its core.
She was 22. He was 56. All these years later they are still married and have two adopted children of their own. But it can’t have been easy, going back to work in that tight industry town where everyone knows everybody else’s business. Gossip hurts.
Apart from all that, something else happened. Woody Allen went off the boil. He just wasn’t as good as he had been. The films – one a year, still prolific – didn’t have that trademark Allen rat-a-tat dialogue. The spark had gone.
Lo, there came Midnight in Paris. I would argue that Allen has always been higher valued on the Continent than in the US but somehow Sony brought him back into the fold. The movie was distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. Now there is Blue Jasmine. There is a sense of restoration.
Woody Allen is now 77. His energies appear undiminished and the films keep coming. Does he need the validation of his once adoring Stateside peers? No, he does not.
But they should open their arms because they definitely need him.