Lisa Nesselson – December 2021
Lisa Nesselson, Film Critic
A well-rounded individual interested in movies, cinema and film, Chicagoan Lisa Nesselson has been living in Paris since 1978. As in-house film critic for the English-language branch of 24-hour news channel France 24, she appears each Wednesday to inform and entertain about current releases.
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. Lisa currently reviews for Screen International, RogerEbert.com and Deadline.com. Her book-length translations from French to English include biographies of Clint Eastwood, Simone de Beauvoir and Cinematheque Française founder Henri Langlois. Lisa is president of the Académie des Lumières de la Presse Internationale.
Clearly everyone was dying to talk about Woody Allen, because the room upstairs at Le Café de la Mairie filled up before our 3 p.m. start, a sign that Après-Midi was going to have a good turn-out. I didn’t take a formal count, but we filled every seat in the house. Lisa Nesselson spoke about one of her favorite topics: the “Railroading of Woody Allen.” At least that’s her opinion, and she’s a very well-researched expert on the subject.
Lisa overwhelmed us with her knowledge and it was impossible to argue with her logic. My guess is she changed a lot of opinions by the end of the session, but the part I loved the most, was not so much whether the allegations against him were true or not, but how differently he is perceived and admired or condemned by the French vs the Americans.
She gave many examples of how the French cherish him and his films to an extreme, including a story about how recently at the Cannes Film Festival, she almost missed seeing the screening of his new film “A Rainy Day in New York” because of a medical situation finding her in an emergency room…but once they found out why she needed to leave as soon as possible, the medics sped up their duties and got her out the door in time…all thanks to Woody!
The talk went on till well after 5 p.m. because Lisa could have gone on for much longer and no one wanted her to stop. It was fascinating and fun and she was hilariously funny, too—she has a great sense of humor who joked that she has been called “obsessed by Woody,” although she doesn’t see it that way. Still, she showed me several little orange books filled with notes all about him.
Lisa wrote in one of her emails to me, “I’ve read so many idiotic American pieces about how Allen, in a last-ditch effort to save his legacy…blah, blah, blah. These people don’t have a clue that Woody couldn’t care less about his legacy (‘Do I want to live on in posterity? No—I want to live in my apartment,’ Woody wrote) and he never watches his own films again after they’re done. He gets so much done because he couldn’t care less what other people think or say about him.”
To see the PowerPoint presentation that we used as visuals during Lisa’s talk, download the PDF version here.