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At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Synecdoche, New York’, 11 June 2009

Synecdoche, New York 
directed by Charlie Kaufman.
April 2009
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... it’s just grim and lingering, allowing Cotard to wallow in his not very interesting angst, as if Woody Allen had visited us with one of his earnest moments. You have to wonder whether there is a virus that makes witty American moviemakers want to be Ingmar Bergman at least once in their lives. This is it for Kaufman: Wild Raspberries. But only some of ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘Django Unchained’, 24 January 2013

Django Unchained 
directed by Quentin Tarantino.
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... from their incorrect racial views, these men are idiots. The joke recalls many situations in early Woody Allen movies, Take the Money and Run, for example, where the bank teller can’t read the handwriting in the robber’s threatening note, and indeed looks back to the conversation John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson have in Pulp Fiction when a ...

At the Movies

Michael Wood: ‘A Serious Man’, 17 December 2009

A Serious Man 
directed by Ethan Coen and Joel Coen.
November 2009
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... shot dead from the shore by a man and his son out hunting Jews. You’ll recognise the homage to Woody Allen. The narrative of the film is structured around Larry’s quest for advice from three rabbis. The film’s second-best version of the reigning joke occurs in the last of these scenes when the rabbi’s stolid receptionist, after staring at Larry ...

Less than a Trauma

Freya Johnston: ‘The Life of the Mind’, 26 May 2022

The Life of the Mind 
by Christine Smallwood.
Europa, 200 pp., £12.99, October 2021, 978 1 78770 345 2
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... over many possible courses of action, while failing to decide on any of them, makes her funny in a Woody Allen kind of way and something of a non-starter. She has thoughts like this: ‘The ancient notion that art holds up a mirror to reality was complicated in the 18th century by the idea that the mirror of art ought to reflect only certain parts of ...

Antic Santa

James Francken: Nathan Englander, 28 October 1999

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges 
by Nathan Englander.
Faber, 205 pp., £9.99, May 1999, 0 571 19691 8
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... their souls’ and that this relief turns all the outward signs of observance into an illusion. Woody Allen makes fun of the false piety of the Hasidim in ‘Hasidic Tales’ in Getting Even: the man who ‘journeyed to Chelm in order to seek the advice’ of the sage finds out that ‘the rabbi is in over his head with gamblers, and he has also been ...

The Real Magic

David Sylvester, 8 June 1995

A Biographical Dictionary of Film 
by David Thomson.
Deutsch, 834 pp., £25, November 1994, 0 233 98859 9
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... or Rossellini or of Cocteau or Fritz Lang or von Sternberg or Arthur Penn or Pasolini or Warhol or Woody Allen, nor a film directed or choreographed by Busby Berkeley, nor, amazingly, a film starring either Garbo or Fred Astaire, nor Shoah. Instead, it finds room for The Quiet Man and The Bridge on the River Kwai, three films by Nicolas Roeg and four by ...

Idiot Mambo

Robert Taubman, 16 April 1981

Cities of the Red Night 
by William Burroughs.
Calder, 332 pp., £9.95, March 1981, 0 7145 3784 5
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The Tokyo-Montana Express 
by Richard Brautigan.
Cape, 258 pp., £6.50, April 1981, 0 224 01907 4
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... for being a thinking and aware person’: but he takes the precaution of sounding like a parody of Woody Allen sounding like someone who ...

Modern Discontent

Bernard Williams, 17 July 1980

The Culture of Narcissism 
by Christopher Lasch.
Norton, 288 pp., £6.95, February 1980, 0 393 01177 1
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Nihilism and Culture 
by Johan Goudsblom.
Blackwell, 213 pp., £15, May 1980, 9780631195702
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... humour’. The total embodiment of modern narcissistic America is, Lasch suggests, Woody Allen. This account of a kind of character, with its psychoanalytical formulation, offers a good number of suggestions. But it really does little to sustain Lasch’s cultural critique. For this critique to be sustained, a link would be needed between ...


Christopher Tayler: Alain de Botton goes on a trip, 22 August 2002

The Art of Travel 
by Alain de Botton.
Hamish Hamilton, 261 pp., £14.99, May 2002, 0 241 14010 2
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... have trouble with his girlfriends, perhaps because they’re usually called things like ‘M’. (Woody Allen: ‘Should I marry W? Not if she won’t tell me the other letters in her name.’) His ideal woman would be ‘a reincarnation of Giovanni Bellini’s Madonna’ with ‘a dry sense of humour and spontaneity’, with whom he would like to lie in ...

Steamy, Seamy

David Margolick: The Mob’s Cuban Kleptocracy, 20 March 2008

The Havana Mob: Gangsters, Gamblers, Showgirls and Revolutionaries in 1950s Cuba 
by T.J. English.
Mainstream, 400 pp., £17.99, September 2007, 978 1 84596 192 3
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... by one into a room near the top of the Nacional, they offered the kind of Hollywood freeze-frame Woody Allen spoofed in Take the Money and Run: Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, the legendary mobster Lansky helped spring from an American prison long before he finished his 30-to-50-year sentence for running a prostitution racket; Vito Genovese, a famous ...

Tucked in

Nicholas Spice, 24 February 1994

by Amos Oz.
Chatto, 352 pp., £15.99, September 1993, 0 7011 4004 6
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... between them. The effect of all this is altogether too cosy and reminded me of a passage in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories. Sandy (‘Woody Allen’) has hit on ‘a very remarkable idea for a new ending’ for his movie: Sandy: We’re, we’re on a train and there are, there are many sad people on ...

Serfs Who Are Snobs

Catherine Merridale: Aleksandr Nikitenko, 29 November 2001

Up from Serfdom: My Childhood and Youth in Russia 1804-24 
by Aleksandr Nikitenko, translated by Helen Saltz Jacobson.
Yale, 228 pp., £20, June 2001, 0 300 08414 5
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... a summons to court.’ It doesn’t take much, reading this, to hear the narrating voice of Woody Allen in the Russian mode of Love and Death. There is Tatarchukov, a family benefactor, who ‘smelled like a goat . . . in a greasy frock-coat and drooping pantaloons’, who fell in love with a woman less than half his age. There is the music group ...

All in the Family

Sylvia Lawson, 3 December 1992

Letters to Sartre 
by Simone de Beauvoir and Quintin Hoare.
Radius, 531 pp., £20, December 1991, 0 09 174774 0
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Witness to My Life: The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvior, 1926-1939 
edited by Simone de Beauvior, translated by Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee.
Hamish Hamilton, 448 pp., £20, November 1992, 9780241133361
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... since Hitchcock. In a weekend colour supplement, he and female friend gaze behind the title ‘Woody’s Miasma’: around the local release of Husbands and Wives the promoters are cashing in heavily. On the radio, another reviewer drones away about how he couldn’t watch the movie without thinking about it ... (It was his problem; I had no trouble ...

Turtle upon Turtle

Christian Lorentzen: Nathan Englander, 22 March 2012

What We Talk about When We Talk about Anne Frank 
by Nathan Englander.
Weidenfeld, 207 pp., £12.99, February 2012, 978 0 297 86769 2
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... Freudian terror of the stories ‘In Dreams Begin Responsibilities’ and ‘The Track Meet’. Allen Fein, a married man with a shiksa wife, enters a Times Square peep show and buys several tokens; after seeing one beautiful woman, he is greeted by a phalanx of rabbis, his shrink, and then his mother, in stockings, garters and ‘a wad of Kleenex’ over ...

According to A.N. Wilson

Patricia Beer, 3 December 1992

by A.N. Wilson.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 269 pp., £15, September 1992, 1 85619 114 1
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... declared “What have you against Rabbi Eliezer, for his teaching is correct?” ’ This is sheer Woody Allen: the McLuhan scene in Annie Hall. But Vermes goes on to explain ‘that this intervention was ruled out of order because in the Bible it is written that decisions are to be reached by majority vote.’ In the context of the present debate I ...

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