Watch: Gordon Willis’s Framing Techniques in Over 25 Films: A Video Essay

Watch: Gordon Willis’s Framing Techniques in Over 25 Films: A Video Essay

Gordon Willis was one of the cinema’s greatest
artists. Drawing from over 25 of his films, this essay celebrates Willis’ lighting, blocking, preference for a 40mm lens and
above all his use of strong geometric patterns. Whether collaborating with some
of America’s most celebrated directors; Woody Allen, Alan J. Pakula and Francis
Ford Coppola, irrespective of the genre and regardless if the setting was
urban, rustic, contemporary or period, Willis’ style was
so identifiable that he redefined cinematography. Gordon Willis
was a cinematograph-auteur.

Steven Benedict is a writer, producer and director of multi-award
winning films. He is also a contributor to several shows on Newstalk106.
Having lectured for several years in
University College, Dublin, the National College of Art and Design
and the National Film School, he recently graduated with First Class
Honours from the Staffordshire University MSc in Feature Film Production
at
FILMBASE.

Watch: An Unsettling Mash-Up of Terrence Malick’s ‘Days of Heaven’ and Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’

Watch: An Unsettling Mash-Up of Terrence Malick’s ‘Days of Heaven’ and Woody Allen’s ‘Manhattan’

Terrence Malick and Woody Allen would seem to make a rather odd pair, but the reality is that, as this piece by Vince Di Meglio shows, the two have more in common than one might think. Di Meglio has taken the opening voice-over from Malick’s Days of Heaven and spliced it over the opening shots of Manhattan–and then done the reverse, taking Woody Allen’s novel draft stops-and-starts from Manhattan and placing them over the opening scenes from Days of Heaven. And… to be honest… it works quite nicely. The angst-ridden tones of the Malick film complement Allen’s vast, black-and-white Gordon Willis vistas, just as the aspirational tone of the Manhattan voice-over portends the desperation soon to be seething in Days of Heaven, after its opening frames. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the movies were relatively close in release date; their evident sympathetic relationship here could be because they were part of a larger, more romantic zeitgeist than the one we have at present.

Or maybe not.

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Allens, the Farrows, and You

Choose Your Own Adventure: The Allens, the Farrows, and You

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When I was a teenager, I worshipped Woody Allen to an
unhealthy degree. I think, at some particularly unfortunate point, I might have
even dressed like him. To me, and I’m thinking to others, he represented three
things: urbanity and sophistication; a wit born of erudition; and the
possibility that one might, without an excess of good looks or distended
musculature, attract the opposite sex—through the sheer force of words. When it
was revealed that Allen had left Mia Farrow for his daughter/non-daughter,
Soon-Yi Previn, I tried hard to be objective about him, as a figure, but my
grasp of the reality of what one should and shouldn’t do in any human
relationship, combined with the decline in quality of his films after that
revelation, made it difficult to take him seriously, although I continue to
rank Annie Hall, Hannah and Her Sisters,
Husbands and Wives
, and Crimes and
Misdemeanors
among the greatest films of all time (it’s a long list). The
recent unearthing and re-unearthing of allegations that he molested 7-year-old Dylan
Farrow have provoked reams of commentary, consideration, and investigation into
his life, and specifically his life with Mia Farrow and her numerous children. This
fermenting, for lack of a better word, has been disappointing, not so much
because no conclusion has been reached (there isn’t one), but because of a lack
of overview, the inability of those commenting on the scenario to distance
themselves from it, or what it might mean to them, personally. What has resulted from the feverish reaction to these
decades-old events is a gradual tying of our hands, across the board, so that
to even consider the controversy is akin to opening a Choose Your Own Adventure
book, in which the judgment you might make, in whatever public forum, suggests that you possess a particular set
of characteristics—and, as in the books, you can’t make two judgments at once,
just as you can’t read two stories at once.

The problem is mainly one of tone. The words commonly used
to describe Allen at this point—monster, creep, wouldn’t want him alone with my
children, perverted—are not the words one uses when thinking clearly. Granted,
the circumstances don’t allow for too much clear thought—the actions described,
toy train, attic, and all, are horrific. It would be difficult for anyone to
react with equipoise to testimony on such events, real or imagined.
Nevertheless, what happens when public sentiment is stirred, across blogs,
comment boxes, newspapers, and telephone waves, is that a sort of brushfire
starts. If the fire grows too bright, it either subsumes other opinions or
whittles them down, makes them look black and vaguely evil. To suggest, as many
have, sentiments along the lines of “we’ll never know what happened” is to, in
many cases, add a parenthetical “(but we kind of do know).” To shrug about it
becomes, in a sense, a concession to the truth of What Is Written. Suggestions
that Dylan Farrow made up her allegations, her memories having been molded by
her mother’s coaching, end up sounding rather creepy beside the bold and righteous,
“He’s a criminal. He should pay.” A Daily Beast essay by Robert Wiede on the
matter, asserting that the allegations were false, was denounced by Jessica
Winter at Slate as “smarmy,” while Wiede’s tone wasn’t necessarily more or less
hostile than Farrow’s.

But indeed, what of the tone of the father and daughter
involved here? Their poorly written testimonies haven’t helped, speaking more
to deep-rooted rage than anything else. Oddly, the epistles (that’s what they are, really) share a tone,
one of aggression, of pots boiled over, much like the tone of some of Allen’s
most poignant filmic moments. Allen has his “Soon-Yi and I made
countless attempts to see Dylan but Mia blocked them all, spitefully knowing
how much we both loved her but totally indifferent to the pain and damage she
was causing the little girl merely to appease her own vindictiveness” or
“Again, I want to call attention to the integrity and honesty of a person who
conducts her life like that,” while Farrow has her “So imagine your
seven-year-old daughter being led into an attic by Woody Allen” or her “I have
a mother who found within herself a well of fortitude that saved us from the
chaos a predator brought into our home.” Allen finds himself the victim of
serious accusations, while Farrow finds herself the victim of both abuse and
patriarchal oppression following that abuse, making it hard for her to speak up.
Their public records, as it were, are powder kegs, bombs thrown into a movie
house, ultimately dangerous and corrosive, for all of their seeming liberation.
Farrow makes a strange gesture in offering a statement which can neither be
proved nor disproved; Allen makes a strange response in deferring to logic
rather than facts, as in his statement that it makes no sense that he would
molest someone at such a tempestuous time in his relations with Farrow’s
mother. The two statements cancel each other out, neither one more convincing
than the other, really. It’s a loaded spat, close to after-dinner theater—but
any popcorn you might throw has already been thrown. Just check the blogs, the
comment boxes and the social media.

What if the story here is entirely
different from a tale of abuse of power, or a fable about the importance of
speaking up about abuse? What if the story unfolding now points backwards, to the
reasons we enter relationships, and how we need to think those reasons over
carefully? Allen, at the time of the beginning of his relationship with Farrow,
gravitated towards women who did not outshine him, most notably Diane Keaton,
who, comic chops aside, relies on self-effacement for her comedy and will never
have the cultural stature Allen has. Farrow fits this mold as well: a tremendous
talent whose screen presence, at least at the time she met Allen, was never
overwhelming, and who, for all intents and purposes, is no longer an actress.
Farrow, on the other hand, was attracted to powerful men, like, say, Frank
Sinatra, or Andre Previn, men who dwarfed her, in a professional sense. In
becoming involved with Allen, it would seem, she wanted more of the same. And
yet: Allen publicly acknowledged his sexual deviance, both in print and in
other ways too obvious to even refer to directly; Farrow liked to care for
children, often children weakened by disability or poverty. They gravitated
towards each other because they each had something the other wanted, and yet
neither need could sustain a loving relationship. Each chose an adventure, and
unfortunately, their adventures collided somewhere near the end of the book.
The result? Pain that has pursued the family for 20 years. In creating a household together, they ultimately harmed themselves, and those around them, in small and vast ways. And in choosing to
side with one person rather than the other, to say “he done it,” or “she done
it,” we limit ourselves. The harder choice for us, as thinking people who live
in a society that loves celebrities, would be to recognize how different these
celebrities are from us, and to try to glean what wisdom we can from their
repeated, grave errors.

Max Winter is the Editor of Press Play.

BLUE JASMINE’s Complex Interior(s)

BLUE JASMINE’s Complex Interior(s)

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Warning: This review contains mild spoilers.

Critics have widely noted that the scenario of Woody Allen’s
latest feature, Blue Jasmine (2013),
is indebted to A Streetcar Named Desire
(1947). However, cinematically, the film owes just as much—if not more—to an
earlier Allen film: the obscure Interiors (1978).

Blue Jasmine’s indebtedness to Streetcar is fairly obvious. The movie depicts what happens when the blustery socialite
Jasmine (Cate Blanchett), having fallen on hard times, moves in with her
working class sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins), initiating a series of class
conflicts. What’s more, Blanchett came to the project after a tenure as Blanche
in a Broadway adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s famed drama.

The
connections with Interiors, however, should
be just as apparent. What obscures them is the fact that Interiors was little-seen in its time, and is today
little-remembered. To be fair, it’s a fairly bleak drama that presumably startled
and confused audiences more accustomed to Woody Allen’s nebbish comedy—indeed,
the film was how Allen chose to follow Annie Hall (1977),
after that film’s success afforded him carte blanche.

Interiors certainly has its problems
(which I’ll get to below), but it remains fascinating if for no other reason
than it was Allen’s first attempt at serious drama. We’re more familiar with
that side of Woody today; since then, he’s also made September
(1987), Another Woman (1988),
Crimes and Misdemeanors
(1989), Match Point (2005)—and
now Blue Jasmine. And so it’s high
time to revisit Interiors, and note
the ways in which Blue Jasmine is beholden
to it.

Some of the
broad similarities between Interiors
and Blue Jasmine include:

  • Both films
    are straight dramas, and fairly sober. (There’s no comedic plotline, like
    in Crimes and Misdemeanors.)
  • Allen
    doesn’t appear in either film.
  • Both films
    depict the mental deterioration of their respective protagonists.
  • In Interiors, Eve (Geraldine Page)
    suffers a breakdown after her longtime husband announces his desire for a
    trial separation; she clings to the futile hope that they will reconcile.
    In Blue Jasmine, Jasmine’s collapse
    follows the downfall of her deceitful husband Hal (Alec Baldwin), to whom
    she periodically continues speaking, despite his having hung himself in
    prison.
  • Eve is
    an interior decorator, a job Jasmine aspires to—going so far as to pretend
    to her suitor Dwight (Peter Sarsgaard) that she already is one.
  • Both
    films alternate fluidly between past and present action.
  • The overall
    editing styles of both films are similar, as Allen employs many abrupt
    cuts between scenes. Both films, for instance, tend to cut hard on the heels
    of the last line in a scene, often using this as an opportunity to switch
    between the timelines. (Allen first started matching on dialogue like this
    in Annie Hall.)

Additionally, Blue
Jasmine
includes other signs that the ever-introspective Allen is now remembering
his previous work. The amorous dentist for whom Jasmine briefly becomes a receptionist,
Dr. Flicker (Michael Stuhlbarg), bears the same name as the Brooklyn psychologist
in Annie Hall who assures a young
Alvy Singer that there’s no reason to fear an expanding universe. And the
mentally unstable Jasmine is another variation on a familiar Allen archetype
that includes not only Interiors’s
Eve but also Radha Mitchell’s Melinda in Melinda and Melinda
(2004), Christina Ricci’s Amanda in Anything Else
(2003), Mia Farrow’s turns as Hope and Lane in Another Woman and September,
respectively, Dianne Wiest’s Holly in Hannah and Her Sisters
(1986), and, arguably, Diane Keaton’s Annie Hall.

A
willingness to rework “whatever works” is not new in Allen’s cinema; the man
has long been in the habit of basing his films on preexisting material.
Sometimes the influence is explicit: Stardust Memories (1981)
clearly revises Federico Fellini’s (1963), and neither
Match Point nor Crimes and Misdemeanors disguises its debt to Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment (1866). Similarly, Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
cribs a fair amount from Fellini’s La Strada (1954), Husbands and Wives (1992)
steals from Bergman’s TV miniseries Scenes from a Marriage
(1973), and September would be
unimaginable without Chekhov’s play Uncle
Vanya
(1897/9). At other times, the inspiration is subtler: Deconstructing Harry
(1997) borrows a portion of its central scenario from Bergman’s Wild Strawberries
(1957), a fact that might be overlooked due to the film’s wealth of material
and concern with metatextuality. (Both films are picaresques in which an older
man travels to receive an award from his former university; furthermore, the
scenes depicting Harry’s fictions are arguably equivalent to Wild Strawberries’s dream sequences.) And
To Rome with Love (2012)
is only loosely inspired by Boccaccio’s 14th-century classic collection
of tales The Decameron. (Its’ working
title was “Bop Decameron.”) Melinda and Melinda
pays homage to My Dinner with Andre
(1981) by including Wallace Shawn among the dinner companions, and takes its
central conceit from Alain Resnais’s 1993 experiment Smoking/No
Smoking
(1993) (or perhaps Krzysztof Kieslowski and Krzysztof
Piesiewicz’s The Double Life of
Veronique
, 1991).

Given this,
it’s worth remembering a fascinating argument made by Brad Stevens in a feature
article in the April 2011 Sight &
Sound
(“In Defence of Woody Allen”). There, Stevens claims that all of
Allen’s recent films (those since 2000) are to some extent variations on one
another:

“When viewed as a group, films
that—taken individually—could hardly seem any clearer or less ambiguous in
their intentions begin to feel mysterious and fragmented, diverse parts of a
whole whose contours can be glimpsed only as the various pieces of the puzzle
fall into place.”

In other words, Allen has spent the past ten years basing
his films . . . on his own previous work. Stevens notes that both Small Time Crooks (2000)
and The Curse of the Jade
Scorpion
(2001) feature jewel thefts, while both Vicky Christina
Barcelona
(2008) and Whatever Works (2009)
feature “women who realize they are gifted photographers as soon as they become
part of a ménage à troi.” Even more
compellingly, Stevens reads Scoop (2006) as a comedic reworking of the material that Match Point presents as tragedy: “both
deal explicitly with the class system and involve males who murder women in
order to preserve privileged positions within that system.” Along these lines, Stevens
notes how the seemingly innocuous Melinda
and Melinda
serves as something of a “guide” to reading Allen’s recent
work, serving up tragic and comedic variations of the same story.

All of this
having been said, I wouldn’t want to overlook the substantial differences
between Blue Jasmine and Interiors. Most importantly, Interiors, despite being a beautiful and
intriguing film (especially in the context of Allen’s filmography and career),
is hardly a successful feature. It is for one thing much too derivative of Ingmar
Bergman, especially Persona (1966) and Cries & Whispers
(1972)—the final shot, for instance, feels especially contrived, a blatant copy
of cinematographer Sven Nykvist’s work.

Blue Jasmine wears
its influences more lightly: while the film begins with a scenario taken from
Tennessee Williams, Allen quickly puts his own stamp on the material, and quickly
sets out in his own direction: there is no Stanley Kowalski, no “Stella!”, and both
sisters soon get caught up in romances with other men. Blue Jasmine is also the more successful film in terms of its characterization
and tone. Jasmine and Ginger, et al., are far more complex creations than the
caricatures inhabiting the chilly corridors of Interiors. (The exception of course is Eve; Geraldine Page’s
performance is nuanced and powerful). Moreover, whereas Interiors is marred by the same clunkiness that sometimes haunts Allen’s
dramas (see also September), Blue Jasmine’s dialogue and plotting
recall the subtler scripting on display in Crimes
and Misdemeanors
and Match Point.

For
instance, consider the question of Jasmine’s culpability. She gives the impression
that she never had any knowledge of Hal’s criminal endeavors, or even the capacity
to understand them. Indeed, she routinely protests that when she encouraged Ginger
and Augie (Andrew Dice Clay) to invest with Hal, she was simply trying to help
them out. However, after Hal confesses to Jasmine that he has been serially
unfaithful, and what’s more that he intends to marry the French au pair he is
currently seeing, we see Jasmine make a phone call to the FBI, which leads to
his arrest. We might presume that Jasmine offered to testify against her
husband, and therefore knew more than she later lets on. The point is not elaborated
upon, and only Jasmine’s adopted son Danny (Alden Ehrenreich) seems to know
this fact, explaining his desire to have no further contact with the woman.

Thus,
Allen’s filmmaking is more subtle than critics commonly recognize— perhaps
distracted by the broad strokes?—as well as more introspective. Above all else,
Allen recognizes that psychological insight is not threatened by artifice. He has
always been comfortable allowing his fictions to be fictions—always fake, and always based on other works, his own and
others. Part of Allen’s value as a writer and as a filmmaker (and I personally
consider him among the highest ranks in both categories) has always stemmed
from his simultaneous pursuit of psychological insight by means of inherited material. Cate Blanchett’s Jasmine is in many
ways a stereotype, a shallow socialite decked out in Chanel belts and Louis
Vuitton bags; her costuming is anything but subtle. But Allen’s broad signaling
in this regard does not diminish the power of the portrayal. By the end of the
film, Allen and Blanchett & company have constructed a complex character whose
psychological suffering is palpable and unsettling.

Take for
instance the final scene, which is as neat and poetic an ending as could be
hoped for. Throughout the film, Jasmine’s been haunted by strains of “Blue Moon,”
the song that was playing when she first met Hal, who became the source of her
highest highs and her lowest lows. Each time we are given only an instrumental
version. At the end, the song returns, and as Jasmine sits and mumbles to
herself, alone on a park bench, she admits that the words have become “a jumble”
(the film’s last line). But Allen trusts us to remember them:

Blue moon

You saw me standing alone

Without a dream in my heart

Without a love of my own

This is the height of Allen’s artistry on display. Watch how
it happens. The song is redemptive, but we see Jasmine solitary and hopeless,
her last chance at redemption blown. Arguably, she deserves her comeuppance.
But who will be the first among us to insist upon that? Allen, meanwhile, hangs
back and quietly observes. Jasmine sits there and he watches her sitting there,
and as the song continues playing we realize the gentle irony of the movie’s title:
“Blue Jasmine.” This is a very sad ending for such a creature, monstrous though
she may be.

But Jasmine
isn’t a monster, which is precisely
Allen’s point: she’s utterly complex, and none the less so for having been
stitched together out of pieces taken from countless prior protagonists. Woody
Allen both inherited her and made her—that’s the real irony. And he keeps on shooting, and dares us to risk caring.


A.D Jameson is the author
of the prose collection
Amazing
Adult Fantasy
(Mutable Sound, 2011), in
which he tries to come to terms with having been raised on ’80s pop culture, and the novel
Giant
Slugs
(Lawrence
and Gibson
, 2011), an absurdist retelling of the Epic of
Gilgamesh. He’s taught
classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Lake Forest College,
DePaul University, Facets Multimedia, and
StoryStudio Chicago. He’s also the
nonfiction / reviews editor of the online journal
Requited. He recently
started the PhD program in Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at
Chicago. In his spare
time, he contributes to the group blogs
Big
Other
and HTMLGIANT. Follow him on Twitter at @adjameson.

PETER TONGUETTE: EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU is a stealthy Christmas classic

PETER TONGUETTE: EVERYONE SAYS I LOVE YOU is a stealthy Christmas classic

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1.

In Stardust Memories, as we all know, Woody Allen plays a movie director. At one point, a studio executive (a brilliant little cameo role by Laraine Newman) says to him, “This is an Easter film. We don’t need a movie by an atheist.”

But what about a Christmas film by an atheist?

2.

By the time I saw Woody Allen’s Christmas movie Everyone Says I Love You, Christmas was over, and so was New Year’s Eve. It wasn’t until some dreary day in the middle of something like February that the film reached us, weeks after the tree had been taken out to the curb and the confetti swept away. That day, Christmas seemed very far away.

It wasn’t just that the season had passed. It was where I was calling from, as Raymond Carver might put it, that was the problem. Everyone Says I Love You was a musical comedy set in Manhattan, Venice, and Paris, and it was the last city that served as the backdrop for the film’s richly evoked Christmas scenes. Well, I had never been to any of those cities, and it was hard not to feel out of the loop when gawking at them from Slidell, Louisiana, the city north of New Orleans where for all intents and purposes I grew up.

In my thirteen-year-old mind, it wasn’t a difficult choice: La Tour Eiffel or the Superdome? Please.

I was besotted with the offhand glamour of the Christmas section of Everyone Says I Love. For example, the way the story’s narrator D.J. (Natasha Lyonne) says that her family (mother Goldie Hawn, father Woody Allen, stepfather AlannullAlda, and assorted siblings and step-siblings) doesn’t go for the usual Christmas things, like singing carols or hangings stockings. “What we do do is we head right for Paris,” she says, “and we spend our Christmas holiday at the Ritz.” Woody Allen must have directed Natasha Lyonne to deliver that line—among the wittiest he has ever written—in as deadpan a manner as possible. It’s charming how this lifestyle is, for D.J., routine.

Allen had her same nonchalant tone when he talked to interviewer Eric Lax about some of the challenges he faced in making Everyone Says I Love You. One problem was that he wanted to film the scene where Edward Norton picks out an engagement ring for D.J.’s older sister (played by Drew Barrymore) at Tiffany’s. “[B]ut they didn’t want us to dance on the glass countertops. We said we’d put in our own glass and protect everything but they just didn’t want dancing on them. They said we could dance in the aisles and take over the place but we went over to Harry Winston and they gave us complete cooperation and it was fresher.”

I would have gladly traded problems with Woody Allen.

3.

At the same time, if I really searched my memory, I could find things in my life that were comparable to the stylishness of the family who spends Christmas at the Ritz. My favorite scene in Everyone Says I Love You comes when Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn go to a Groucho Marx-themed Christmas Eve party. Everyone there has dressed up like the comedian. There was something about the party’s improbable combination of elegance and silliness that I could relate to.

nullYou see, around this time our family was friends with a family who lived in uptown New Orleans on a street called Audubon Place. The Christmas before I saw Everyone Says I Love You, we went to a party they threw at their grand house, which was probably not even the grandest on their street. I couldn’t tell you because the only time I ever saw it was in the cover of night at parties like this one. But really: I knew. Whenever I entered their house—three stories, with a spiral staircase and an elevator—I thought of April Wheeler’s line in the Richard Yates novel Revolutionary Road: “I still had this idea that there was a whole world of marvelous golden people somewhere…”

I always felt like telling April Wheeler that the people she is talking about live on Audubon Place.

The wife had an enormous collection of hats. I don’t mean that she had ten hats. There were at least fifty, but there could have easily been 100 or more. There was shelf after shelf of hats, protected by glass, illuminated by what was presumably special lighting. Their variety was almost cartoon-like. That’s what reminded me of the Groucho Marx party in Everyone Says I Love You; the hats looked as silly faux greasepaint moustaches do in the context of a luxe party.

And yet there was something terrific about them, too. Woody Allen would recognize this truth. He saw Everyone Says I Love You as a fond valentine to the Upper East Side—in all of its over-the-top splendor. “I look around and I see rich kids going to these private schools and their chauffeurs take them,” he told Time magazine, “and I see husbands and wives come down at night, and he’s got a tux on and she’s got a gown, and they go out—it’s a wonderful, romantic neighborhood. These people have money, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

I came to share Woody Allen’s benevolent view of wretched excess. People collect butterflies. Why not hats?

4.


Maybe, then, I shouldn’t have felt so excluded from the world of Everyone Says I Love You. A few days after Christmas that year, my father and I went to the Brooks Brothers on Canal Street, hoping to find a good sale. I had been looking for an overcoat. I remember my father telling Stephanie, the clerk who usually helped us, that I was looking for the sort of overcoat “that Jules Feiffer might wear.”

You see, in my mind Christmas and the New York intelligentsia and having nice things were all rolled up into one tangly ball. These associations made perfect sense to me. My father got where I was coming from, but at the time I privately thought to myself, “I wonder if Stephanie has even heard of Jules Feiffer?” I might have also thought, “When in the hell will Everyone Says I Love You open down here?”

Then again, is shopping for a Jules Feiffer-style overcoat at Brooks Brothers a few days after Christmas so much more déclassé, or any less unconventional, than spending Christmas at the Ritz?

nullI say “Woody Allen’s Christmas movie,” but of course only a small portion of Everyone Says I Love You takes place during the holiday season. Yet when you watch the movie for the second or third time (I have seen it perhaps 10 times by now), it feels like the whole story is building to those scenes. There is a lot to enjoy in the scenes set in the spring, summer, and fall, but they don’t have the same magical pull. By the time we get to Halloween, we’re antsy, and so is our director. Woody Allen can’t wait for Christmas. He’s like a seven-year-old that way.

So many of the movies I think of as Christmas movies have very little to do with the holiday per se. I think of them as Christmas movies only because I saw them on or near Christmas. I’m talking about films like Marnie, Love Streams, Sleepy Hollow, Slacker, The Trial, The Talented Mr. Ripley. So it still really bothers me that I wasn’t able to see an actual Christmas movie like Everyone Says I Love You until February of the following year. I think I would have better grasped the connections between the fantasy on the screen and the reality of my own life if the hat collection on Audubon Place had been fresh in my mind as I watched the party where everyone looked like Groucho Marx.

The most famous scene in Everyone Says I Love You comes when Woody Allen and Goldie Hawn leave the Groucho Marx party and go for a stroll beside the River Seine. The stroll turns into a dance number and after it is over, Woody and Goldie talk about their former life together and their current life apart. It seems like they begin every sentence with “Do you remember when…?” Is there a better way to spend Christmas Eve than reconciling yourself to your past?

It was this scene that prompted Roger Ebert (the movie’s best and most persistent champion) to wonder if “perhaps Everyone Says I Love You is the best film Woody Allen has ever made.”

All I can say is this: there is nothing like leaving a fancy party early and facing the bite of the cold night air. Especially if you’re with a pretty companion. Especially if you’re going over old times with her. Especially if it’s Christmastime and you’re in Paris. I’ve had a few experiences not unlike these. I hope to have a few more.

Peter Tonguette is the author of Orson Welles Remembered and The Films of James Bridges. He is currently writing a critical study of the films of Peter Bogdanovich for the University Press of Kentucky and editing a collection of interviews with Bogdanovich for the University Press of Mississippi. You can visit Peter's website here.