Monday, January 02, 2006

Media Chick: Match Point

Woody Allen wishes you would just admit to your despair. He used to be some adorable little man who spent his days worrying about his inadequacies. You thought that was so cute. "Ooooh. Look at him ponder and pace and pout! Isn't he darling! The jittery little Jewish man is so insecure!" But, gentle readers, you were wrong. Woody is 70 now and the nervousness has given way to an air of wisdom about the world. And, turns out, the world sucks. Or, as he put it in three quotations I found, "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon." "More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly." And, "Most of the time I don't have much fun. The rest of the time I don't have any fun at all."

Sounds hopeful, right?


"Match Point" is about the supremacy of luck. (Luck is the absence of reason or a cause-and-effect system of occurences.) One character states early on, "I think faith is the path of least resistance." And this ideology carries throughout the film. I'm not sure if Allen thinks that everything is a waste of time (maybe not sex...) but hope sure is. And even hedging ones bets seems to be fairly futile. Along with Allen decrying faith, he heralds the failure of Intelligent Design. (While the Godlessness of the world is merely a corrolary to "Match Point"'s metaphysics, this is the same Allen who said, "I believe there is something out there watching us. Unfortunately, it's the government.") Anything that is under our control is just as quickly out of control. Forces of nature, logic, reason, or history can change without a moment's notice and we're left to cope with the pieces. Or we're not left at all.

Don't get me wrong. "Match Point" was a fantastic film. Unlike most depressing works I've seen, it had a cogent outlook on the world, presented clearly, convincingly, and completely. The entire film fit under this rubric, cleverly laying piece after piece down, until its events seemed to point to the only logical construction of the universe. Allen seems to have it all worked out. I just hope he's wrong.

I could talk about the fabulous casting, the hottttt sex scenes (more like sex snippets), or the excellent discussion about class. I could talk to you all about how Allen's New Yorker frankness served as a perfect implied counterpoint to this film about highly British manners. But, really, I'm too depressed.

Upside? Filmmaking is alive and well. Downside? It's alive in a man who once said, "My one regret in life is that I am not someone else."

Isn't that special?


AzS said...

Yow. Something about really well-made, depressing films by filmmakers who used to stick to happier entertainment... And this is the year that 9/11 becomes a movie, too:


snsm said...

I haven't seen Match Point yet, and I'm glad you reviewed it favorably--many reviews have been mixed. I've heard it's good also because NONE of the characters are the Allen stand-in (complete with fake NY accent and nervous shrugs).

I actually don't think of Allen as a pessimist. He's a satirist, and often his stand-in characters spiral into despair at some point in the movie. But most of his pics are essentially comedies. Is Match Point funny? Does it have a happy ending? It's unusual for Allen's movies to actually end unhappily, I think--Crimes and Misdemeanors is the only one that comes to mind.

Again, I am not an Allen afficionado--ever since he married his stepdaughter, I get the willies from his films. Whether a filmmaker or actor's personal life should get in the way of your enjoyment of their films is a different story entirely...Katie Holmes, anyone?

AzS said...

"Whether a filmmaker or actor's personal life should get in the way of your enjoyment of their films is a different story entirely"

I think that depends on how true-to-life the film is... If Katie Holmes made a film about sleeping with geriatrics, I'd see that as weird... at the same time, I've met people who are dating despite massive age differences (twenty-six and fifty-two), and although it struck me as extremely weird at first, they do make each other happy, so who am I to judge? Let's be fair: We expect people to be comfortable with homosexuality (and that, in itself, can be a difficult thing to learn how to do), why are we having such a hard time with Katie Holmes?

Rami Raff said...

I would argue with your reading of the quote. "Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon" Which is, by the way, not the exact line. The line in question comes from Annie Hall, in fact here's the whole monologue to put it in context:

There's an old joke - um... two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life - full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly. The... the other important joke, for me, is one that's usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud's "Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious," and it goes like this - I'm paraphrasing - um, "I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.

This is not espousing a fatalistic viewpoint. Quite the opposite. If anything this is a notion tinged with hopeful optimism. Allen is arguing there is a great deal to appreciate in life, the problem being that ultimately our time on Earth is too short to appreciate it. I would hold that for all the despicable elements of human nature Allen still holds that there is good in the world. Now, I haven't SEEN Match Point yet (because it hasn't happened in wide release in the valley ) but the moment I do I'm willing to concede my point. But even in his most downbeat tragicomedies (I'm thinking Crimes and Misdemeanors here) Allen still can find the good in people. I'm curious to see if this optimism has been completely snuffed, but lets not go around saying that Allen has always been totally about despair.

Smeliana said...

Well, Mr. Raff, we seem to be at am impasse. Your context is helpful. Upon further research (haven't seen Crimes, for one) I'd be willing to concede that Allen is not always hopeless. That being said, see Match Point and tell me if you think any hope has been snuffed. Having read your comments, I still believe everything I said about Match Point.

And, AzS, I'll reluctantly agree that homosexuality and big age differences are probably in the same general category of irrational heebie jeebie-giving relationships. But, l'havdil an age difference and Kate (nee Katie) Holmes' total mental abduction. Catherine Zeta-Jones is with an older man. Katie Holmes has been caputured by a cultic force that has changed her entire personality and sapped her of her autonomy. And Woody Allen married his step-daughter. That's not about age differences either.

Anonymous said...

I just want to applaud Media's chick's highly learned, well-seasoned, and greatly entertaining insights into the world of film. She is right: film is more than flashy art: it is the power of the essence of humanity: think how much of our lives is involved in telling a story of one kind or another: news papers use the form of stories...novels are stories, some people think that the theraputic process is the process of a person learnign a new story about his or her life.

Media Chick joining forces with the powerfully insightful musing pictures man is a match made in heaven. I look forward to more of their blogging together.


remember what woody allen said in Deconstructing Harry: the thing that frightens me about the holocaust is that records are made to be broken.

That is actually very profound!

AzS said...

Thank you, ABBA (though, I daresay, probably not the band), for your support! I'm flattered!

And to Media Chick: I think we've hit on a significant reason why some people find certain things so hard to accept: If you feel something is wrong, but are told to accept it as not-wrong, at what point is it ok to continue feeling that something is wrong? So, homosexuality is perfectly acceptable in today's ideal, liberal society, but marrying your stepdaughter is not? why not? where is the line, and why is it there? This, of course, would probably be a good "Brokeback Mountain" sub-conversation... but I haven't seen that particular film yet.

And to Ms. Holmes: If you ever mispronounce my name, remind me that I owe you one. (and the irony is that in fourteen years, the Oscar will go to "Aaron Shorr", and I'll get very confused as to who Aaron is...)