Sunday, February 05, 2006

"Match Point"

I just saw Woody Allen's "Match Point." At first, I thought it another dull and irritating expression of Allen's juvenile and disdainful nihilism. It seemed to me that because Allen can find no objective anchor for morality he obsesses on the dark underside of our existential fate by reading too much Dostoyevski and Camus. Because he can't find--and describe through dramatic narrative--some sort of rationalism on which to hang morality, Allen succumbs to despair, it seemed to me. As any moody teenager would.

But on reflection, I realize that I'm trying to press Allen's film into a didactic, platonic model of art. I want him to have grown spiritually and philosophically over the course of his life's work, and my first take on this film, is that it's evidence that he hasn't. But, on second thought, I realize that this film says nothing of Allen's growth spiritually or philosophically, but says a lot (perhaps) of the tenacity of his deepest, most visceral, emotional, gut level experience of the world, which no philosophy might ever be able to mitigate. That Allen expresses nihilistic despair does not necessarily mean that he has not grown past it, but rather, that it remains alive at his core as the engine of such growth. He may be a full-blown Cabalist or Marxist rationalist by now, for all we know; but, if so, it's in reaction to the great dread of nihilism that we experience in his films. All of which to say is that Allen's mode may be more cathartic, more Aristotelian, than I was crediting him for.

If this is true, Allen is actually exercising an artistic honesty that I often think is lacking, in film or elsewhere. He's giving us his ugliest, most self-feared self, rather than a glossier, mellower version, which we'd find--I'd find--easier to applaud.

In my own, tinier, experience of life, I've found that I myself have not much expanded my own philosophy or spiritual understanding of life. Yes, it's articulated in a differently (not more) nuanced way than in the past. And, I think I embody my idea of 'The Good' more now than I did in the past. But, when I read old journals--from my twenties and thirties--I realize that the root obsessions and emotional experiences that once drove me still do; and that the ideas I developed in response to them were often more articulate and interesting when I was twenty-five than they are now that I'm forty-five. What I have now is a more knowledge rich, more sophisticated means of APPEARING to have... grown up.

Woody Allen, for all the pretentiousness of his 'serious' films, may be refusing to be seduced by the siren call of such philosophical 'maturity,' which, God help me, I seem to want from him.


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