By Dan Gifford
16 Jul 20090
Who says time travel isn’t possible?
I spent 92 long minutes in Woody Allen’s cinematic wayback machine
yesterday, reliving almost all the 60’s pseudo-psychoanalytic cultural
neuroses, nihilism and negative leftist judgmental-stereotypes he
popularized then that still have us on the couch and at each other’s
Allen wrote the script more than 30 years ago with Zero Mostel in mind
as the obvious, self-involved, Allen alter-ego lead character living in
a psychobabble New York City hell of his own creation. But a not so
funny thing happened on Zero’s way to the Forum years ago, leaving Allen
to look for an actor who could convincingly play the part of a brilliant
Jewish string theory former professor in his sixties who manages to
schtup and then marry a vulnerable, naive teenager. The familiar ring of
that scenario is integral to the theme of “Whatever,” which is that
there is no God, everything that happens is just random cosmic kaka, and
so we should all do whatever gets us our jollies.
Yahweh may not agree, but He did create a person unbalanced enough — at
least from what I read — to play the lead: Larry David of Seinfeld and
Curb Your Enthusiasm (mine was curbed shortly after the fade from black).
In scenes that must have been twenty or more pages long, David’s Boris
Yellnikoff –emphasis on “yell” — alternately kvetched and sneered in
gawd awful-long soliloquy to the fourth wall about sophomoric penis
envy, vaginal snapper fear, Oedipal lust, suppressed homosexuality,
atheism, NRA hating, fly-over land cretin bashing, inner-selves yearning
to be free and other urban elitist Nietzsche-Kant-Sartre politically
liberal arrogance that used to be such great co-ed thigh openers at frat
house mixers or the White Horse Tavern while channeling and analyzing
Dylan Thomas’ inner Freudianism Jungism.
Do not go gentle into that good theater darkness for this one, my
friend, unless you can stand the past life regression to “Oooh, so what
were Freud and Jung really saying?” by the keg.
Well, Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar while Jung thought
that a woman was a woman but a cigar was a smoke. But lemme play it out
for ya …
My name is Sigund Freud outa Vienna, and I bring youuuu … a VIRUS for
the Jung !!!
You make me feel so Jung
You make me feel my head has sprung
And every time I look at you
I feel so very, psychological.
The Moment that you speak
I wanna hold my head and freak …
“That’s sooo clever and deep. And just where is your room in this great
Wouldn’t every aging man like to live the Lolita fantasy of a nubile
bed-mate who swallows every cockeyed pessimistic rant about life and
love and God without challenge while offering a Viagra? Sure you would.
And I’ll bet Woody likes it too, which is why his Yellnikoff seems an
awful lot like the Max Von Sydow misanthrope of “Hannah and Her
Sisters.” It’s on his mind. It’s in his life. Woody may look mellow, but
there’s a raging river of recurring themes that cannot find resolution
behind those horn rims — emphasis on horn. Maybe that’s why he’s gone to
a shrink every day for the past 50 years.
How Allen managed to inject his own psycho-neuroses, political and
social views on the American culture, I don’t know. Was his wimpy,
over-therapied, pseudo-intellectual image something America wanted to
imitate? Or were those who most identified with Allen already that way?
Whatever, the unvarnished anger and snobbery of the urban chattering
class toward those who lead traditional lives (married, kids, religious,
employed at non artsy jobs — particularly those who lead those
traditional lives in “flyover land”) is on display in this film for all
us artistic elites to wallow in.
Guys who like football are hiding their lust for guys by watching guys
in tight pants. Guys who own a gun are compensating for the inadequate
size of their penis. Belief in God is a form of arrested mental
development. All of which reduces to Allen tellin’ those schmucks who
think they’re happy with their routine lives that they aren’t.
Some of Allen’s solutions?
Admit you’re really gay and live the lifestyle. Throw away that Bible
that’s causing sexual repression and discover the new Jesus of a
bisexual menage a trois. Take advantage of teenage girls. Try and commit
suicide — twice — as Yellnikoff does.
Try? I’d have been willing to kill that sob for sure, especially after
finding a $55 parking ticket on my car after the movie.
Dan Gifford is a national Emmy-winning,
Oscar-nominated film producer and former
reporter for CNN, The MacNeil Lehrer
News Hour and ABC News.