Monday, October 17, 2016

Acceptance, Forgiveness, and Love



Louis Prima. Joe Franklin. Cigarettes. The old. The accented. The poorly dressed. People with scars, moles, jowls, wigs. Bad noses. Bad hair. Delis. Plastic-covered furniture. Howard Johnson's. Colony Records. Lumpy bodies. Cigarettes. S&S cream-cheese cheesecakes and pecan pies. Cherry cheesecake. Heaps of corned beef and pastrami. Blood-soaked, untrimmed steaks. Cigarettes. OTB. Optimo. Cocktail waitresses. Smarm. Ventriloquists. Escape artists. Smiler's. Accordion music. Chain smokers. The dirty grease on groovy hamburgers. Cigarettes. Terrible (but funny) jokes: "I just saw a horrible accident. Two taxi cabs collided. Thirty Scotchmen were killed." The working class. Sweetness. Zest. Enjoyment. Life. Ways of caring. Earnestness. Devotion. Joy. The naive and the silly. The human range of New York City. The lost. The lonely and alone. The broken and crippled. Cigarettes.

Vanished. No, not vanished. Banned. From the public, cultural face of the Apple. Gone.

Woody Allen's 1984 valentine to the New York City disappeared is his best and most moving work. And the funniest. His embrace of all we never see anymore -- the shunned -- is keyed to the tune of the true hearts: those who may be talentless and unsophisticated, mediocre and boorish, ugly and uncool. Doesn't matter. Because all they do is heartfelt and self-forgetful. Toward them here is shown not a moment's camp, condescension, or cruelty. Here, they are celebrated. As are the great stand-ups from the time before Allen hit it big: Corbett Monica, Sandy Baron, Jackie Gayle, Will Jordan -- from places like the Latin Quarter, the Copa, the China Doll. Only caveat: Gordon Willis's inappropriately gloomy photography.

Why not shoot it like this?



Of course, before and after Broadway Danny Rose, Allen's cinema gave / will give a strong push off-stage to the dear hearts. But this is his penance. This is his un-Manhattan.