What’s Your Critique of Woody Allen?
I’ve been hoping Lisa Nesselson would speak at Après-Midi for a long, long time now…and finally, she’s on the roster for tomorrow’s gathering. Her name might not mean much to you if you don’t regularly watch France 24, the national news channel in France that broadcasts in four languages (French, English, Spanish and Arabic) but I’ve enjoyed her reports about cinema for many, many years finding them to be incredibly enlightening and insightful. Hence, my desire for her to speak at our monthly coffee gathering.
Lisa is a Chicagoan who has lived in Paris since 1978 and is the in-house film critic for the English-language branch of the 24-hour news channel. She appears each Wednesday to inform and entertain us all about current film releases. It’s not her only gig, of course. In addition to devoting 17 years to writing and reviewing for the American trade paper “Variety,” she wrote the irreverent monthly film pages of the “Paris Free Voice” for 14 years. We old-timers remember the Voice well, and is in fact, where my first ever article about purchasing property first appeared.
Lisa also currently reviews for Screen International, RogerEbert.com and Deadline.com. Translations is another hat she wears, as she’s completed book-length translations from French to English for the biographies of Clint Eastwood, Simone de Beauvoir and Cinematheque Française founder Henri Langlois. On top of it all, Lisa is president of the Académie des Lumières de la Presse Internationale. So, she comes with accolades of fine credentials.
The French love cinema more than just about anyone. France is the “cradle” of cinema. This is where cinema took its first baby steps before spanning across the globe, mesmerizing people as it did. And France is renowned for the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. Cinema is part of daily life in France. Travel and Leisure Magazine says that Paris is the best place in the world to go to the movies with “dozens of historic art-house theaters, and a culture of cinema-going that refuses to go dark.”
When I asked Lisa what she wanted to talk about tomorrow, she offered up Woody Allen, someone and something she knows a lot about and about which she could talk for hours. I jumped at the offering! France loves Woody and Woody loves France, unlike the U.S. which has very mixed emotions. His film, “Hollywood Ending,” ranked 47 percent in Rotten Tomatoes. One critic wrote, “Hollywood Ending has its satirical charms, but it repeats itself remorselessly, and it has no emotional center. Meanwhile, it was hailed as a masterpiece in France. “Here, I’m a bum,” Allen’s character says at the end of the picture. “There, I’m a genius. Thank God the French exist.” How true is that!?
The question is: why do the two countries have such different opinions of this highly controversial genius (or jerk)?
Lisa will certainly answer this question along with a host of others, and that’s to what I’m looking forward. Part of the answer has to do with the scandals that surround him, involving Mia Farrow, their children and his current partner, Soon-Yi Previn. One thing for sure—Americans are way less tolerant of such sexual proclivities than the French.
Let’s face it. Woody Allen is a legend in his own time. Born in 1935 as Allan Stewart Konigsberg, he began his career in the 1950s writing material for Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Larry Gelbart and Neil Simon. He published books and wrote humor pieces for The New Yorker. In the early 1960s, he did stand-up comedy in Greenwich Village alongside such luminaries as Lenny Bruce, Elaine May, Mike Nichols and Joan Rivers. His persona as an insecure, intellectual, fretful “nebbish” is how we all think of him, perhaps in spite of his scandalous sex life.
His film career began in the mid 1960s. He has written and produced at least 72 films. I am personally a huge fan of his films and have seen almost all of them. While there are many I can truly say I love and have watched multiple times, such as “Midnight in Paris,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” and “Annie Hall,” my personal all time favorite is “Manhattan Murder Mystery.” Lisa told me she has quite an interesting story to tell about how this film fits with his scandals involving Mia Farrow…so, I can’t wait!
On top of it all, Woody is a clarinetist and performed with a New Orleans Jazz band every Monday evening at the Carlyle Hotel in Manhattan for many years. I saw him and the band perform right here in Paris in 2002 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. I remember distinctly that he addressed the audience speaking in French, but because his New York American accent was so strong, I didn’t even realize the language wasn’t English!
Whether you love Woody or hate him, love or hate his films, too, we are sure to be delighted by Lisa’s commentary on this very profound topic and controversial person who has kept us contemplating life on many levels…for good or bad!
Don’t miss tomorrow’s Après-Midi! See our website for more information. No need to register…just show up!https://adrianleeds.com/event/lisa-nesselson-film-critic/
A la prochaine…
The Adrian Leeds Group®
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