Tuesday, July 25, 2017


In the online world, things get recommended to you for reasons you don't always understand (No, Amazon, I do not want the soundtrack to Xanadu, so please stop trying to push it on me.)  In this case it was Google that thought I would be interested in the trailer for this new movie.

That, uh, looks a little familiar, doesn't it?  I mean, the specifics of the plot and characters may be somewhat different, but in form and intent, doesn't it seem a lot like this?

 Look, I realize that not every New York-set comedy/drama is automatically ripping off Woody Allen.  I haven't seen Person To Person.  Sure, everything about the visuals in this trailer, from the staging to the framing of the shots, is, shall we say, reminiscent of the style Allen worked out with cinematographers Gordon Willis and Carlo di Palma, just as the clipped pacing strongly reminds one of the cutting style of Allen's former editor Susan Morse.  But it's just a trailer.  Maybe the movie's different.  (Louis C. K., incidentally, hired Morse to edit one season of his series Louie, but hey, I'm sure that was pure coincidence.)

I have, however, seen Frances Ha...

...and yeah, it's a really good movie, and the focus and characters are different, but come on.

And then there's the most egregious example of all.

i mean, they're not even trying to hide what they're doing in this case, right down to the use of  white-on-black titles and old timey music.  The difference, of course, is that Annie Hall is prickly and uncomfortable while When Harry Met Sally is cuddly and lovable.

And it's weird that people rip off Allen by making generic "neurotic New Yorkers" or "bittersweet romance" movies, because Allen himself has made relatively few of those.  He has one of the most recognizable visual and verbal styles of any filmmaker in history--at his worst, they become mannerisms--but he's really quite diverse in his subject matter.  Many of his best films--Zelig, The Purple Rose Of Cairo, Alice--are fantasies, or memory pieces like Radio Days and Cafe Society.  Some of his best comedies, like Manhattan Murder Mystery or Bullets Over Broadway, are pure door-slamming farce, but nobody tries to emulate that.

No, they go for the things that are stereotypical "Woody Allen" without seeming to realize he's a filmmaker, not a brand.  The only other director who has been stolen from so shamelessly for so long is Steven Spielberg, everything from Cocoon to Super 8, and like Allen, Spielberg has made relatively few movies in what is thought to be his signature style. 

Allen has a new movie, Wonder Wheel, coming out later this year.  He's in his eighties, and his best days are almost certainly behind him, but even if this one sucks at a Curse Of The Jade Scorpion level, at least the only person ripping him off this time will be himself.