There is one thing that really fascinates me about the passing years.
It’s that some things that mattered deeply to us when we were young continue to matter, others don’t and still others sort of slip away without even a thought.
When I was in my early twenties, there were few movies I anticipated as eagerly as the ones made by Woody Allen. I thought “Bananas” was one of the funniest films I had ever seen, and when “Sleeper” came out in limited release in December 1973 I remember driving up Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C., almost to the Maryland line for a midnight showing at the one theater in the area where it was playing.
I’m not sure there was ever a movie that made me laugh more. It wasn’t the first time Woody and Diane Keaton appeared together, but it was the first time she was in a film he directed, and she showed a surprising talent for physical comedy.
By then I was hooked. I saw every film he made through “Radio Days” — still one of my favorites — in 1987, including a fairly amazing occurrence in January 1984 when I was living in Anderson, S.C. We had only one movie theater in town — actually two screens — so what came to Anderson was fairly limited. I remember on a Monday night off, I went to the last showing (9:30 or so). The two movies playing were Allen’s “Broadway Danny Rose” and a slob comedy about skiing called “Hot Dog: The Movie.”
There were a pretty good number of people in line for tickets and refreshments, but surprise of surprises, every one of them except me went for David Naughton and Shannon Tweed. I watched “Broadway Danny Rose” without one other person in the theater.
Somewhere, thought, he lost me. In the ’90s, I only saw two of Allen’s films — “Manhattan Murder Mystery” and “Mighty Aphrodite,” the second on DVD. And in the next decade, I only saw “Scoop” — again on DVD — and that was actually more because of Scarlett Johansson than Woody. I have the DVD for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” but have yet to watch it.
But last night I put Woody’s most recent film into my Blu-Ray player, “Midnight in Paris” with Owen Wilson in the Woody Allen role, and I loved it from beginning to end. I don’t know how critics rate this movie compared to other recent films of his, but I enjoyed it more than anything I had seen since “Radio Days.”
I don’t think this is going to send me off on a buying spree of his recent work, but I guess I’ll at least watch “Vicky” and then maybe I’ll drag out some of the old ones again.
I’m pretty sure no one is making comedies any better than that.
The only thing that’s a shame about it is that comedy is such a communal experience. When I watch a good comedy in a crowded theater, I laugh out loud from beginning to end.
Here at home, I just smile.
It’s OK. Smiling is better than not smiling.