As “Magic in the Moonlight” opens today- go see it, it;’s very clever– Woody Allen ruminated recently on his favorite subject: the end of the world. Our PAULA SCHWARTZ reports highlights from Woody’s recent press conference:
Woody Allen was in fine form last week at the press conference for his new romantic comedy “Magic in the Moonlight” at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. Joined by the film’s stars Colin Firth and Jackie Weaver, Allen was witty and hilarious even as he espouse his typically grim and bleak outlook on life. Here are some tidbits.
Woody Allen on movies as escapism:
“I’ve been escaping my whole life. Since I was a little child I escaped into the movies on the other side as an audience member. I escaped by going into the movies and sitting in the movies all day long. And then when I got older I escaped into the world of unreality by making movies, so I’ve spent the last – I don’t know – almost fifty years, not quite, but 45 years, something like that, escaping into movies but on the other side.
When I get up in the morning I go and I work with beautiful women and charming men, and funny comedians and dramatic artists and I’m presented with costumes and great music to choose from and sense and I travel a certain amount of places so my whole year for my whole life I’ve been living in a bubble and I like it. I’m like Blanche duBoise that way. I prefer the magic to reality and have since I was five years old. Hopefully I can continue to make films and constantly escape into them.”
On why his protagonists tend to be neurotic and find life meaningless:
“Why do I find life meaningless?… Because I firmly believe – and I don’t say this as a criticism – that life is meaningless. I’m not alone in thinking this. There have been many great minds far, far superior to mine that have come to that conclusion, both early in life and after years of living and unless somebody can come up with some proof or some example where it’s not, I think it is. I think it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing and that’s just the way I feel about it.
“I’m not saying one should opt to kill oneself, but the truth of the matter is, when you think of it, let’s say, every hundred years, or certainly every 110 years, there’s a big flush and everybody in the world is gone. Everybody’s gone and there’s a new group of people. And then that gets flushed and there’s a new group of people. And this goes on and on interminably toward no particular – I don’t want to upset you – toward no end, no particular end, and no rhyme nor reason.
“And the universe as you know, from the best physicists, is coming apart and eventually there will be nothing, absolutely nothing. All the great works of Shakespeare and Beethoven and Da Vinci, all that will be gone. Now not for a long time but gone. And much shorter than you think really because the sun is going to burn out much earlier than the universe vanishes so you don’t have to wait for the universe to vanish. It will happen earlier than that. There will be nothing. So all this achievement, all these Shakespearian plays and symphonies, the height of human achievement, will be gone completely. There will be nothing, absolutely nothing! No time, no space. Nothing at all. Just zero.
So what does it really mean to get exercised over trivial problems? That’s why over the years I’ve never written or made movies about political themes cause while they do have current critical importance, in the large, large scheme of things, you know, only the big questions matter and the answers to those big questions are very, very depressing.
What I would recommend? This is the solution I’ve come up with, is distraction. That’s all you can do. You get up. You can be distracted by your love life, by the baseball game, movies, by the nonsense, can I get my kid into this private school? Can I get this girl to go out with me Saturday night? Can I think of an ending for the third act of my play? Am I going to get the promotion in my office? You know, all this stuff, but in the end the universe burns out. So I think it’s completely meaningless and to be honest my characters portray this feeling.
On being an artist:
“I think it’s the artist’s job, I think it’s my job or the artist’s job, to try and find some solution or some reason to accept things, but given the grimmest reality, I feel the grimmest facts are the real facts, the true facts, that you’re born, you die, you suffer. It’s to no purpose and you’re gone forever, ever, ever, and that’s it and facing that, that massive, massive overwhelming bleak reality, to find a reason to cope with that, a good way to cope with that, and I feel it’s the artist’s job to do that.
“I’ve never found a good solution to it and the best that I can offer is distraction. So I’ve thought to myself at times, there’s a story in two filmmakers; one filmmaker makes films that are deep, intellectual, profound and confrontational, and the other one makes purely vacuous, escapist films, and I’m not sure if the one who makes the escapist films is not making a bigger contribution than the one who makes the deeper films that finally you’re in the world and it’s so terrible and all these things are going on and you go into a dark room, the movie theater, and you’re there for an hour and a half and Fred Astaire is dancing and it’s like drinking a cold drink , a lemonade, on a hot day and you’re refreshed and you walk down into the terrible heat and can take it for another few hours or more and that is the only thing that I can think of the artist doing.
“The artist can’t give you an answer that’s satisfying to the dreadful reality of your existence so the best you can do is maybe entertain people and refresh them for an hour and a half and then can go on and meet the onslaught until they are sunken and crushed and then somebody else comes along and picks them up a little bit.”
And: “Aren’t you glad you came today?