Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Packing it in.

Five-hundred posts ago, I started the Cigarette Smoking Blog on a drunken dare with myself. Nearly a year later, it's time to put the site on extended hiatus as I move to Postmodern Conservative full-time. Please update your blogrolls and follow me as I make this exciting transition. (I can also be found at here and here with decent regularity.)

Curious new-comers, nostalgic old-timers, and browsers who got here by Googling my name may be interested in an at-a-glance guide to CSB's greatest hits; please consult the Table of Contents.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bliss it was in that dawn to be alive, but to be Pomocon was very heaven.

I am Not Done with Woody Allen Yet

Shmuel Ben-Gad has posted a provocative diary titled "Are Woody Allen's Films Vile?" No prizes for guessing his conclusion:
. . . Mr. Allen's films, I think, fall far short of excellent satire because such satire requires, at least implicitly, an alternative to that which it scorns. But the idea of another way of life, of making the choice to be faithful to someone and exercising self-restraint to honor that commitment, does not seem a living option to these people or, ultimately, I daresay, to Mr. Allen.

One is not demanding that Woody Allen show a sentimentalized married couple to "balance" the anarchic sexual lives he depicts. (I have no use for sentimentality.) What is strange and (to use the word again) sad, is that he seems unable to depict, amongst his casts of characters through many films, characters who seriously try to lead honorable, faithful married lives. I cannot help but suspect that Mr Allen sees no point. He seems to think we have no choice but to be overwhelmed by our passions. I am not sure that his failure to recognize a better way is vile, but it is, I think, morally stunted. And so are his films.
I think he's right that none of Woody Allen's characters are terribly likable or well-intentioned, at least in his late seventies and early eighties New York movies. But that's the point.

Take Husbands and Wives, which has the difficult thesis that any given divorce might be perfectly wise, but a culture of divorce, like the one that existed at that place and time, is more emotionally disastrous than the sum of its parts. From Sydney Pollack and Judy Davis's point of view, their separation made perfect sense. In fact, it made perfect sense from anyone's point of view, at least in terms of everyone's short- and long-term happiness. Still, something about the instability of the situation makes them miserable. (Like the cumulative magic of self-interest in capitalism, but for unhappiness.) If Husbands and Wives is about cultural evils rather than human ones, then everyone has to be equally trapped in the same pathologies. Putting a heart of gold in the cast makes it seem more like Pollack and Davis crash and burn because they're bad people rather than because they're good people trapped in a system that forces them to be bad.