Woody Allen Love-Hates Art
I’m not gonna lie to you folks, the original aim of this post was to review the best scenes touching on the art world gathered from any and all movies indiscriminately.
Problem: as hard as I racked my brain, it was nearly impossible to think of any half-decent clips that didn’t trace their way back to Woody Allen in some form or another. The only exceptions were Linda Fiorentino in After Hours and David Walliams’ Vulva character in Spaced, which technically isn’t a movie so that was dropped faster than Ai WeiWei’s Ming Dynasty vase collection.
In the end it became obvious that only one filmmaker has consistently and deftly displayed such a contemptuous yet reluctantly impassioned, bang-on perspective of the modern art scene. And so, suppressing the urge to dig up the more obscure (read: pretentious) examples of art on film, we had to give Woody his due credit and give up the spotlight to our favourite moments of sardonicism, irony, and lascivious disregard for “good taste”.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Before we even touch on this wonderful in-your-face shaming, I just want to point out the subtle beauty of one of the first shots of the movie which echoes Monet’s Water Lilies.
The vibrancy of the colours and keen framing express all at once the entire premise of Midnight in Paris: that of being in the moment of mythic creation; seeing and experiencing art not as a faded memory but as immediately beautiful, availed in every second and not isolated in the period out of which it came.
It’s one of the few earnest and understated moments of art appreciation in the movie and I couldn’t in good conscience proceed without giving it proper mention.
But back to the point: In your face, Michael Sheen. You just got Gertrude Stein-ed. Time to put down those books and party with more lesbian philosopher-poets, it does the body good.
Now, I’m not trying to undercut Dali when I say this, but the truth is that he’s the modern art equivalent of saying that your favourite poet is Chuck Bukowski. I just think that when the dude painted elephants, it was because that was all he meant to express.
This scene makes me giggle like a schoolgirl everytime because when he says he sees a rhinocerous, I truly believe him.
Maybe I’m too narrow-minded when it comes to art criticism, but I’ve seen exhibits eerily close to the steel cube of mention and I still can’t wrap my head around what “negative capability” could possibly mean. Call me a philistine, but I’ll take a Diane Arbus knock-off over any amount of “negative capability” any day.
Of course, what makes this scene compelling is that we are all guilty at one time or another of using highfalutin’ jargon like this, which is exactly what imbues this scene with such preternatural harmonium.
And yes, that is a made-up term.
Annie Hall (1977)
Oh yes, I know this man. I AM this man, voicing my pedantry loud enough for everyone to actively not care. There’s just one exception: this turd is straight-up wrong.
A mastery of technique doesn’t make a director “indulgent”, it makes them a great director. Barring the odd-duck that is Satyricon, Fellini is a fucking genius and this guy is a douche that deserves the epic McLuhan-burn he gets.
As for me, I will continue speaking loudly and out of my depth with the quiet comfort of knowing that Marshall McLuhan died thirty-two years ago and therefore I can misinterpret his theory to my heart’s content with no fear of reproach.
Play It Again, Sam (1972)
Of all the scenes so far, this one is my personal favourite.
Anyone with a BFA has met this girl before. She graduated to Nietzche and Kubin from Sylvia Plath and Marilyn Manson, and even though every intelligent fibre of your body screams to leave before she asks to borrow your blood for her new painting, the prospect of her committing suicide is very accommodating for boys with commitment issues.
At least some guys may think this way. Personally, I could never be attracted to someone with such a ridiculous perspective on Pollock. The man was just a drunk swinging around paint serendipitously, and it worked out great for him.
For me? Not so much.