We took our son to see his first Woody Allen film. Like so many first-time experiences he has shared with his parents, I found myself spending equal amounts of time reflecting on what was going on next to me and what was going on in front of me. Cafe Society was an easy sell for my wife, who would happily watch a group of marginally talented actors reciting the Manhattan phone book dressed in vintage clothes. My son was eager to go because he is a fan of Jesse Eisenberg, in spite of his involvement in the debacle at the beginning of the summer called Batman V Superman: Murderverse. Or maybe because of it. 1930's Hollywood wasn't the appeal for him. Nor Was Woody Allen, auteur. My son, as I mentioned, had never seen a Woody Allen film.
I had. Lots of them. Not every single movie he ever made, but a vast majority. Mister Allen made many of my favorite movies when I was a teenager. Annie Hall came out when I was fifteen, and I figured that this was the future of cinema. This was mildly ironic, since I had seen the future four years earlier in Sleeper. As amusing as that one was, and since it was filmed in and around Boulder, I was still a little young to grasp all the innuendo and witty banter. But the slapstick worked. That got me looking back at what came before: Take The Money And Run, Bananas. My mother, always with an eye toward broadening my cultural horizons, pointed me in the direction of Woody's short stories in The New Yorker. I was already reading the cartoons each week, and cultivating my own urbane sense of humor, so this along with large doses of Monty Python fueled my head with references to books I had not yet read and physical acts at which I could only guess. It wasn't until Annie Hall that all of these pieces began to coalesce.
And that's about the time he stopped making funny movies. It was also just before the time when Woody's personal life began to fray at the edges. And then turn into its own tawdry Bergmanesque mess. When he left Mia Farrow for his new muse, Soon-Yi, I had to turn away. It wasn't funny anymore.
Cafe Society was amusing, and highly reminiscent of some of those short stories I read way back when. It reminded me of all those movies I watched way back when. It made me remember that I was sitting next to my own teenager, who was making up his own mind.