Gautaman Bhaskaran
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Can-do man: Woody Allen is back

Woody Allen is all set to return to his favourite turf, Cannes

By Gautaman Bhaskaran

This May, Woody Allen could be at the Festival de Cannes with his latest movie, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Shot in London, the love comedy stars Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas, Anthony Hopkins, Naomi Watts and Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. The plot revolves around the tangled love lives of family members and their attempts to sort out things.

Though Allen’s Cannes plans are not confirmed, the helmer has had a lingering association with the festival. In 2008, his reputation received a boost when his Vicky Cristina Barcelona received rapturous response and critical acclaim.

The film was classically Woody; urbane, witty and bold, with a torrid kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz. There was more: a threesome with two women, and a wife as an add-on!

But when quizzed whether he has ever imagined himself in such a situation, Allen threw in the towel, saying: “You know, it is hard enough to get one person... two tend to make it more complicated. The characters in this film are able to handle the situation and the chemistry was right. But in real life, most of us could never handle anything like that. It is hard enough to get a relationship that can work out with one person, but with two, it becomes fatal.”

Woody confuses and confounds you. His life has been a romantic roll with cans of controversy. He has been accused of molesting the seven-year-old girl adopted by him and Mia Farrow, Dylan. Later, he married his ‘stepdaughter’, Soon-yi Previn.
Previn was the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, Allen’s longtime lover. Though Allen was never married to Farrow and was never Previn’s legal stepfather, the media and society lambasted this relationship.

Allen knew Previn ever since she was seven, but she said that she had never seen him as a father. The two married in 1997, when Previn was 22 and Allen, 56. He put to rest all accusations by quipping, “The heart wants what it wants.”

And, Allen’s heart wants many things. Great cinema, certainly. In his celluloid innings that began in 1966 with What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, he has made screwball comedies, dramas, no-holds-barred love stories and murderous fare.

Some were cheered with champagne. Some ran into rocks. Some stole hearts, some made you wince and want to rush back home. In fact, for some years, Allen disappeared from the movie radar, pushed into forgettable crevices of the mind.

Allen’s characters are invariably versions of himself or manifestations of his neuroses. And, he does not make any effort to disguise them. But the characters provide the zing in his cinema that leaves you mesmerised. The auteur, who always writes his own scripts, is close to making his 50th picture.

He has won three Academy Awards and been nominated 21 times: 14 as a screenwriter, six as a director, and one as an actor. He has more original screenplay nominations than any other author. Yet, at 70-plus, he seems to still have the energy that emerges out of the comical Sad Sack look he portrays. After all, he entered showbiz 60 years ago, sending jokes to columnists Walter Winchell and Earl Wilson. He went on to become a gag writer and made his debut as a stand-up comedian at New York’s Blue Angel in 1960.

His expressions were invariably expressionless and deadpan to the point of disturbing you. They still are, and the little Woody man foxes you.

(Published May 2 2010 in The Week)

Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004



Could Scarlett Johansson be Woody's next muse? 

There's an undercurrent of deja vu coursing through Woody Allen's new comedy "Scoop," starting with its London setting.

But perhaps most significantly, Scarlett Johansson, the leading lady of Allen's last film, "Match Point," once again plays a displaced American woman -- though in "Scoop" she's more damsel in distress than femme fatale.

 Scarlett Johansson
So is Johansson, 21, poised to become the director's next muse, succeeding Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow?

Allen enthused in a production notes interview that: "She's a total joy. It's like I hit the lottery or something."

He compared her to Keaton, who starred in Allen classics such as "Annie Hall" and "Sleeper."

"There are certain people I've worked with over the years -- Diane Keaton was one -- who were just hit with the talent stick and had it all. And Scarlett has got it all," Allen said. "It's a treat to work with her."

After years of filming nearly all of his pictures in New York City, Allen returned to the British capital, where he shot last year's dark drama "Match Point."

He also revisited the caper territory of "Manhattan Murder Mystery," which the director said was a favorite of his films.

In "Scoop" Johansson plays a student reporter named Sondra Pransky, who gets a tip from a dead journalist ("Deadwood's" Ian McShane).He returns from the afterlife to ensure that his big scoop makes it into print.

The scoop, an English lord's dashing son, played by Hugh Jackman, might be behind the "Tarot Card" serial killings terrorising London.

(Posted on July 26 2006)