In part to prove Steve Jobs wrong, I quietly resolved to myself earlier this year that I would read a book a month, but I’m already way behind. The problem is that for book number one I chose “Conversations with Woody Allen” by Eric Lax, a thoroughly engrossing compendium of Lax’s many interviews with the filmmaker over the past three-plus decades.
In theory, it should have been an easy book to polish off for January, because it reads quite breezily. The thing is its subject matter has naturally spurred me to spend much of the time that I should be reading book number two instead watching as many of Allen’s movies as I can. In case you lost count back in the nineties, there are now over thirty-five of them. Gulp. Before I read this book I think I’d seen about twenty of them, but now I want to watch all of the ones I’ve missed — and watch those twenty again, too. Time consuming.
The Allen Archives
Since the new year, I’ve seen “Radio Days,” “Shadows and Fog” and “Scoop,” none of which are particularly amazing though all of them have their merits (some moreso than others). Early in January I also went out to see his latest release, “Cassandra’s Dream,” which had an unjustly brief theatrical run; for my money, it’s just as good if not better than the overpraised “Match Point” and I recommend it.
Last week I watched “Stardust Memories” again, which was Allen’s follow-up to the immensely well-liked “Manhattan” (of which I’m on record as an adoring fan). It’s not remembered with quite the same affection, but it’s a truly remarkable and convincing homage to Fellini’s “8-1/2” that still manages to remain true to Allen’s idiosyncratic qualities.
What’s more “Stardust Memories” was, like “Manhattan,” also photographed in glorious black and white by the genius cinematographer Gordon Willis. That alone gives it an aesthetic edge, but the presence of the actress Charlotte Rampling catapults it to another level of gorgeousness. Near the end of the movie, there’s a shot of Rampling lying on her stomach, flipping through the Sunday newspaper and smiling back up at the camera. It has all the makings of an iconic image, and yet somehow time has obscured it if not exactly forgotten it. I’d watch these films all over again anyway, but discovering little gems like this one makes it all the more worthwhile.