Everyone Loves a Mystery
Woody Allen was on French television this week promoting his new film “To Rome with Love.” The journalist who was interviewing him, and who obviously felt blessed in his presence, asked the filmmaker if he knew why the French loved him so much. Woody was honest.
“It’s a mystery”, he said.
The “mystery” description inspired me and I wanted to solve it. So I asked every French person I knew why they liked Woody Allen and I made a list of the Top Ten Reasons. I must be honest too – not every French person I asked liked this famous New Yorker and his movies. But the positive reactions heavily outweighed the negative ones and here they are in a cinematographic French-influenced nutshell.
Top Ten Reasons for Woody Worship
1. By far the major reason for Woody’s popularity was his intelligence. (Remember, France is home to the philosopher Descartes, the renowned “I think therefore I am” man.)
2. His films are cultural and intellectual at the same time. They make people think. (There we go again.)
3. He laughs at himself constantly in almost all of his films. (I was surprised at this reason since the French do not practice the Art of Self-Derision at all. I guess they can appreciate it in others though.)
4. Woody Allen is an American who understands more than one culture, which, according to quite a few Frenchmen who answered my survey, is a rarity. (I so wish that wasn’t true – the “rarity” part I mean) but what can I say?
5. He is inspired by European literature and cinema. Woody likes Europe and passes that idea along in his movies – at least the most recent ones which take place in London, Barcelona, Paris and now Rome.
6. Woody’s Women – he loves women and does a brilliant job of portraying the never-ending problems and awkward situations that happen in relationships.
7. Woody is funny and sad at the same time. (Anyone who has been in a long-term relationship can certainly identify with that).
8. Woody’s love affair with jazz music and the use of it in most of his films is right up France’s alley. They love jazz here too and have a profound respect for American jazz musicians.
9. Woody Allen is a good marketer, actually an exceptional marketer. Just look at the opening of “Midnight in Paris”. It resembles an ad for the Parisian Office of Tourism with its picture-perfect postcard shots of famous monuments. “Midnight in Paris” is Allen’s biggest monetary success ever.
10. He’s complicated and so are the French. Many American fans stopped going to Woody’s movies when he started a romantic relationship with his partner Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who is 34 years his junior. Ronan Farrow, Woody’s only biological child, has said, “He’s my father married to my sister. That makes me his son and his brother-in-law. That is such a moral transgression.” Woody’s is estranged from his son and the other two children that he and Mia had adopted.
Woody’s personal situation upset many ex-Woody Allen fans in the United States but the French do not care about famous people’s personal lives and they do not judge. They believe what Woody believes, summed up in a famous quote from Woody himself, “The heart wants what it wants. There’s no logic to those things.”
Well, judging by the answers to my Worshiping Woody survey, France’s heart wants Woody – as illogical as that may be.