Woody Allen walked into the drawing room of the New York Palace hotel last week and sat in front of a microphone. The first question he received, wasn’t one: “This is your 45th film.” “Is it?” he replied. “Well, it’s your 47th if you count those few films you made with…” “Well you shouldn’t!”
Allen will turn eighty this year, and Irrational Man, a murder mystery of sorts, is indeed the 45th movie he’s directed in a career that started in 1966. His age doesn’t seem to have slowed his brain down, but it does seem to have quieted his temperament: the apparent neurotic energy he’s been known for in the past doesn’t make much of an appearance anymore, and its absence leaves his wit to speak for itself. “I’ve never committed murder, but you think about it. You know, you’re lying in bed at three in the morning, trying to get to sleep, and you think ‘Ok, so how would I do it… I’d inject the cyanide into the tomato…’”
On set, though, that energy doesn’t seem to have gone anywhere. Parker Posey, whose role in Irrational Man was enlarged by Allen after he saw her audition, was asked about her experience on set: “We worked very fast. For Woody… even the sound has to be right. It’s not laid back. But it’s loose… I thought a lot about jazz,” she said, alluding to Allen’s other pastime as a jazz musician.
There are few American directors whose name is so commonplace, or whose work is so immediately recognizable by nothing other than the language of their characters. Anyone familiar with film could almost certainly pinpoint a Woody Allen movie by simply reading the first ten pages of the script. And yet, he claims his presence in the medium has been, and is, very minimal: “I don’t see myself as an influence anywhere,” Allen shared in response to a question regarding his legacy. “My name never comes up… this is fine! I just want to make my films, and put them out there, and be left alone.” The self-deprecating, self-conscious humor that fills a movie like Manhattan seems to have shifted into a sort of sincere contentment, and a very slight smile follows most of his quips.
“You think the fame and fortune is going to be euphoric, and then you find out very quickly that it’s empty. What’s really fun, the only payoff, is the act of making the film. Showing up in the morning, with Jamie and Parker and Emma and Jaoquin, and setting the camera man, and getting the costumes right. You’re making an art project in school. You’re cutting and pasting, and then you put the music in, and it’s got a nice feeling. Beyond that… the reaction by critics, by audiences… there’s no joy in it.”
The film is now playing!
Below are photos from the New York premiere presented by Fiji Water.
Photo Credit: Patrick McMullan Company (all Parker images and Woody) and Craig Barritt / Getty Images (all other images).