I truly cannot say that I’ve ever had a “very Woody Allen” moment, until this afternoon. Coincidentally, I was sitting in a tiny theater waiting for his newest movie, Midnight in Paris, to start and was staring longingly at my box of Junior Mints. (I always finish my candy before the movie even starts playing, it’s a miracle if I make it through the coming attractions.) But today I was going to at least wait for those classic black and white Windsor opening credits to roll before tearing into them. This information is only necessary because I was thereby forced to amuse myself otherwise, namely, by eavesdropping on the special blend of hipsters and old-people-who-still-have-kind-of-an-edge inhabiting the seats around me. All other conversation was almost immediately drowned out by one girl a few seats down. I believe the quote was “I mean, yeah, like, I don’t agree with his message whatsoever, but I love the way he expresses it.”
At this point I felt myself being transferred to one of my favorite scenes in Annie Hall, where Woody Allen’s character is becoming increasingly bothered by the ignorant albeit articulate statements a man is making about film while waiting in line at the theater. Allen physically steps out of line and returns with the filmmaker about whom the man was philosophizing, bringing him into the conversation to point out how little this fellow actually understood about his work. But I have to say, when the movie finally started, suddenly I could see why this girl, the non-Woody Allen fan who also happens to be a Woody Allen fan, (but she wants you to know, she’s not really a big Woody Allen fan) was sitting in this theater next to me.
The opening scene was a montage of these stagnant shots of Paris: some at night time, some during the day, half in the sun and the last half in the rain. I could already tell I was going to love this movie because I knew it would be my favorite sort of film: the kind that allows you to remember the immense beauty of this place, the world in which we actually live. The kind that re-illustrates real life in a purely observant atmosphere, without the constant and incessant focus of our minds on things we cannot see. But to watch a place on this Earth captured on film, radiating energy and beauty more sublime than any of our imaginations could foster, is in my mind the greatest gift a film can give. My friends always laugh at me when I tell them the story is secondary to me when I’m watching a movie. But it’s the atmosphere, between the music and the characters and the places they inhabit, the world of a film, that fascinates me. And I truly believe there is no place to live in this universe more beautiful than our own.
Suddenly I understood what my friend, the catalyst for my “Woody Allen moment,” had been talking about. While I was quick to dismiss her comment, I now understood that this movie was wonderful before the plot even began, because of the world it portrayed, our world. It did combine fantasy with reality, but all in the context of the incredible history of real people who lived in the same places we do now, only a different time. No time in which, the movie teaches us, is greater or lesser than our own. When filmmakers portray real people and real places with such a heightened sensitivity, I always tend to feel like I’ve been walking around with my eyes closed. But If I leave a theater and look at the world differently, literally noticing things I missed when I first walked through the doors, then I’d say that film could truly call itself a work of art.