If many consider Tom Hanks the actor who best reflects the American spirit on the screen, Woody Allen should be regarded as the ideal person to catch that spirit and bring it to the movies in the form of an argument. A multifaceted man, able to write, draw, act, make music and, of course, turn stories into films that stand out for their originality, Allen has increasingly become the paradigm of the independent filmmaker, capable of achieving works of high aesthetic value with small budgets.
The key lies in the psychological background of his films, whose stories insistently address the issue of human emotions and relationships in their most unusual versions. Since 1968, when he produced his first film, Take the Money and Run, many of the films made by Allen have achieved public success even though the filmmaker didn’t have to invest a dime on marketing or advertising strategies. The lure that filled theaters was the fact that his films showed sensitivity, intelligence and an absolute mastery of the cinematic language.
His image has not been without controversy, especially for his eccentric behavior. The author snubbed Hollywood when he won his first Oscar for Annie Hall in 1977 and did not attend the awards ceremony— alleging that he had forgotten the event because he was absorbed in one of his clarinet sessions.
In his personal life, he was also involved in scandalous controversies that threatened to destroy his reputation, but the lack of evidence to incriminate him for improper conduct—added to his unique creative genius—managed to keep his career intact.
The 80-year-old Allen has won four statuettes at the Academy, has been nominated for the Oscar more than 20 times, has been awarded two Golden Globes, and has reaped triumphs at film festivals in different latitudes. In 2002, he received the Prince of Asturias Prize and a statue in his honor was erected in Oviedo, Spain. In June 2007, he was awarded the Doctor Honoris Causa by the University Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.
His full film production leaves no room for indifference, even in his less successful movies. Most of his work is characterized by a scathing and subtly corrosive humor, and although Allen has delved in genres like drama and thriller, his forte is the comedy, which he can use as a road on which to run other dramaturgical formats —always towards reflective destinations.
Among his best films, we find Annie Hall, a classic of American piece of cinema and undoubtedly his most accomplished story; Manhattan (1979), a movie that is full of romance and a beautiful elegy to New York; the captivating Match Point (2005), an elegant proposal nuanced by ethical insights; the acclaimed Hanna and Her Sisters (1986), a labyrinthine film, splendid in its aesthetics; Husbands and Wives (1992), a brilliant combination of drama and comedy; or the latest Blue Jasmine (2013), which captivated audiences and critics. The list of excellent films from this prolific filmmaker could be extended even more.
As he ages, his creative rhythm does not decrease. The goal of making a film a year has be-come a kind of personal ritual that involves many challenges for a filmmaker who will not allow box office concessions. His anti-establishment art is a one-way trip during which he doesn’t care if he is exposed to failure. In his journey, Allen fascinates or deflates us when addressing human conflict, but his genius does not go well with the facile solutions of commercial cinema.
That is why the public, knowing his famous obsession to transfer to the screen one work every year, looks forward to the methodical implementation of the cycle.
Already this year, the influential filmmaker is almost ready to launch his latest production. His most recent film, called Café Society, will be the opening event of the 69th Festival de Cannes. The film—a romantic comedy starring Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell and Blake Lively—will not compete for the Palme d’Or, but promises to have enough lure to break records. It narrates the story of a young man who arrives in Hollywood in the 1930s with the hope of working in the film industry. There, he falls in love and suddenly is plunged into the turmoil of the Café Society that marked the times.
For this film, Allen has relied on the outstanding cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, winner of three Oscars.
This will be the third time that a Woody Allen film opens the prestigious event, a feat that no one else has been able to achieve. It is also the 14th time that his works are shown in Cannes. Hopefully, for the joy of moviegoers, the ritual will continue. ■