George: “I happen to dress based on mood.”
Jerry: “But you essentially wear the same thing every day.”
George: “Seemingly. But within that basic framework there are many subtle variations, only discernable to an acute observer, that reflect the many moods, the many shades, the many sides of George Costanza.”
I always think of that exchange from Seinfeld when I think of the acting of Woody Allen. He essentially plays the same part in every movie. But within that basic framework there are many subtle variations, only discernable to an acute observer, that reflect the many moods, the many shades, the many sides of Woody Allen.
In honor of Allen’s latest, To Rome With Love, the first film in which he will act since Scoop in 2006, we will not take stock of Woody the auteur or Woody the writer, but Woody the actor. Thus, in that spirit, today we present the Woodman’s 10 Best Performances.
Okay. I admit this is a cheat. Allen does not actually appear on screen in his 1987 ode to an era when people gathered around their radios for entertainment but his voice is what so cleverly elicits that glorious nostalgic sense of the past. Indeed, you can hear how happy Woody is to talk about it. “Forgive me if I tend to romanticize the past. I mean, it wasn’t always as stormy and windswept as this but I remember it this way because this was it at its most beautiful.”
The Woodman so often likes to play an intellectual even as he constantly dismisses other intellectuals, but in this 1999 comedy he finally let himself go and embraced playing a dim bulb. He is unsightly, unappealing, and entirely unaware that his nickname in the joint of “The Brain” was ironic.
A professor tethered to a flailing marriage who begins to show interest in – cough, cough – a woman much younger than he, Allen’s Gabe is eternally defensive in perhaps his nastiest portrayal. Considering its release came at the time of Allen’s real-life break-up with Mia Farrow (playing the spouse in the flailing marriage) it’s virtually impossible NOT to read into it too deeply, but I dare say the thoughts and actions of Gabe are not entirely unlike the actions of so many others.
Woody The Romantic. He may be as hapless and distraught as ever but there is something neurotically noble in his attempts to live up to the unattainable ideal set by the one, the only Humphrey Bogart.
Despite the fact Allen’s clerk is wandering the streets of an unnamed European city in an ode to German Expressionism, he still plays the part as if he were on his way to Carnegie Deli in Midtown. And that’s not a bad thing. His typical timidness and neurosis are perfect for the part of a man manipulated by dueling vigilante mobs who rather than facing his problems head on chooses to run away and join the circus.
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