The Philosophy of Woody Allen

August 15, 2008

Woody Allen
Nebbish, fatalistic, existentialist, etc….

I was lucky enough to be exposed to Woody Allen’s work at a young age. I vividly recall watching Bananas with my father on television some time in the early 1980s and I remember not only finding the slapstick humour hilarious (which my father is quite fond of) but also noting that there were a lot of “smart jokes” in the film, most of which I was too young to understand. Nevertheless, I filed away the name “Woody Allen” in my mind for future use.

When Arts & Entertainment Television was launched (back in the days when you’d actually get to see some real art on television), the station would play a lot of his films. It was then that I was introduced to his other classics such as Sleeper, Love and Death, Annie Hall, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and my personal favourite to this day, Manhattan. At this point I in my life I was able to catch not just his jokes, but also the philosophical dilemmas in his films that were so self-referencing and personal. His neuroses, his paranoia, his existentialist defeatism, all were on display in all their glory for us to watch, to sympathize with, and often to share. Rather than discuss the merits of Woody Allen’s films, I think it best to simply state that they’ve been both smart and funny: a combination that seems simple yet so foreign in a time when smart and funny rarely intersect. A time in which we now live where smart is often associated with irony and funny is now in the realm of pubescent toilet humour.

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