The girl with the New Jersey eyes looks a bit unsure of it all, to be honest, looks like maybe she might at any moment get up and take her paperback someplace else, someplace where she can carry on re-reading Naked Lunch without having to look up every now and again for to nod or “hmm” in agreement with regards this motherfucker’s waxing on and off about Woody Allen.
She ain’t got no time for this bullshit, not when Burroughs is busy weaving his grot-soaked tapestry of buggery and the brown, not when there’s all sortsa demented odes to smack-soaked abandon waiting on the other side a that yellowed page.
I dare say a fella is gonna have to take heed of the signs slapped cross the faces of folks pretending not to notice, gonna have to accept that no, this is going no place whatsoever, and worse, it’s going there in such a horrific fashion that there ain’t ever gonna be any hope of attempting a more pleasant journey sometimes in the future.
It’s better this way, is what. You go sit with Burroughs, cause let’s face it, the longer I keep yacking, the sooner there’s gonna be something unspeakably imbecilic fly from out my face, like the time I went up for to ask a girl if she wanted a drink, and instead ended up telling her how I thought I was gay for a couple weeks back in 2001.
Anyhow, the further you are from me, the more lyrics there’ll be for my next web-net record, the more misery and self-pity there’ll be for the latest opus of filth and motherfuckery masquerading as “A Review Of Some Nonsense Or Other”.
Because you’ll be well aware, lass, that The Duke finds it almost impossible to wax critical with regards any damn thing whatsoever, if he cannot inject at least 67 litres of pure ether-soaked narcissism into every paragraph.
You are the most wretchedly fucking self-indulgent “critic” I’ve ever encountered, is what the dope-sick priest next-door told me one time. Take Ebert as an example, he advised. You think Ebert wastes 300 words on this girl he saw one time, and how probably he’ll think about her a little while later, when the adverts are on and there ain’t nothing much else for to do but go grimace in a corner for five, six minutes?
Well, there was the time he did that review of Van Helsing, where he just talked about the time he took a shit on a tramp’s face for the price of a cheeseburger.
The lawyer who lives with the priest is only too happy to point out that no such review was ever written.
But fuck that nonsense upside the nuts, is what. A fella’s done sat leaning over a notebook in a café, the music reeks of some diabolical after-dinner conversation about Stocks and Shares, the kinda shit folks concoct in cauldrons filled with minor chords and cappuccino, there’s a girl with beautiful sad eyes reading all about a fella getting done up the arse by a smack-head, and The Duke can’t even begin to start thinking about how to approach the task at hand.
Sometimes around 8 AM I had a dream all about God meets me by the gents in Great Victoria Street station, Belfast, and He’s got a proposition for The Duke.
I got a proposition for you, The Duke, He explains.
I had to point out first and foremost that no, I ain’t gonna be slaying no first-born, so just get that idea out your brains ASAMFP, although I’ll be more than happy to maybe turn some staffs into vipers or some shit.
No. All God asks is that I gather my thoughts on Woody Allen and make them available on the web-net for all to see.
The time is right, says God. Come the hell on, The Duke, that article you wrote back in the day about The Motherfucking Cinema Of Woody Allen, I gotta admit, it was a bit crap. I liked how you pointed out that A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy was easily a better flying bicycle film than E.T, released the same year, but overall it was a bit dry, man. I know a thing or two about nuns, He pointed out, and that shit there was dry as any nun’s hoo-hah I ever laid all-seeing eyes on.
That son of a bitch is your favorite filmmaker of all ever, he made your favorite flick of all ever, and yet looking back on that piece a shit, I couldn’t care less even if I demanded it to be so right this second, which, you’ll be aware, usually results in things being so.
So wake up, or better yet, wait a few hours since you only went to bed fifteen minutes ago and chances are you’ll be a moody, despondent motherfucker all day if you don’t slumber till at least five PM, but when you do crawl out this sweat-soaked hole, take a moment or two for to reflect on the wonders of Woody Allen, and then, I dunno, write something about it all. I don’t care much, to be honest. Also, I’ve been in some dull dreams in my time, man, but this right here is possibly the dullest dream my omnipotent arse ever done graced, and that includes the shit I gotta endure when Mel Gibson grabs a handful of shut-eye.
So I went to this café, on account of pubs reek of memories alive with Sadean terror, and this girl with the eyes, she wants to distract a fella from his calling.
No, she says, go to your calling, honestly, seriously, I’d feel awful, so, y’know, best you go get that Woody Allen article penned and I’ll just console myself with this paperback right here. No, please.
A motherfucker like The Duke is too easily distracted, is the truth of the case.
Just yesterday, for example, I was stood in the check-out at Tescos supermarket, putting all that Diet Coke and Red Bull and frozen pizza onto the belt thing, when this girl in front of me catches my brain. She’s gorgeous, is the truth of the case, but also, she looks a bit pissed off about something, and judging by what she’s been purchasing, she’s a vegetarian.
Who else would suffer those non-meat burger things? Who, if not a vegetarian or a doctor of some kind hopped to the nuts on LSD in the midst of some diabolical experiment? She didn’t look like the PHD type, although probably she’s had a cheeky tab in her time, I’d wager.
Maybe when she was at university, studying Art History, which is also where she started experimenting with Vegetarianism. Just a stick of broccoli at first, just one meal a week that didn’t involve guts or flesh, just the occasional cabbage at the weekend, and then, next thing she knows, she’s in her late-twenties filling up her trolley in Tescos with non-meat burgers and carrots the size of bricks.
I’d imagine, although I could be wrong, that her favorite Woody Allen picture is A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy.
It makes perfect sense that of all the Woody Allen pictures at her disposal, she’d instinctively reach for the one that’s set in the countryside, the one that has the touch of the mystical about it, the one that’s painted in shades of summer, as opposed to the autumnal hue of much of his filmography. The one that abandons the rational, skeptical tone of the flicks either side, and instead takes a moment for to give credence to the idea of a magical, spiritual presence skipping around a fella all the damn day, but yet he never notices.
That green orb dancing around the trees, I’d imagine that hits her right in the blood-pump. I’d imagine it takes her motherfucking breath for a second, and she puts her hand to her chest, and then it’s gone, and she can only sigh.
What the hell’s wrong with you, her grudgingly vegetarian partner asks? Are you having a panic attack? Do you want a brown bag? We’ve got brown bags, sweet Jesus the house is coming down with brown bags. Get her a fucking brown bag!
I don’t need a brown bag, she’ll say. It’s just, that was beautiful, that shot right there. I got that odd nausea I imagine I’ll get when I fall in love.
He doesn’t hear, though, he’s too busy checking the TV schedules for to see when the fuck this film about fairies and flying bicycles might be over, that he might see something worthwhile, something about motorbikes and death.
Fuck this cunt Allen, he’s thinking. Isn’t he the one that molested his daughter?
She doesn’t bother answering.
By this point I realize that she’s left about ten minutes ago, and more than this, I left shortly after, and now I’m stood here in the car-park with a couple plastic bags and a wrist-full of lust.
This is what happens to folks like The Duke, is what, the kinda folks who remember the first time they fell in love, and it wasn’t a lady, or even a gentleman stood in the right sorta glow, but was in fact a shot of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sat on a bench by the Brooklyn Bridge, and the dawn light just starting to pierce the fog both onscreen and off, since it was seven in the morning back one October.
That flick, Manhattan, it was my Star Wars, man.
I don’t remember exactly when or why I suddenly decided I simply must see every motion-film Woody Allen had ever crafted, but the odyssey eventually led to Manhattan, and thank fuck, it was rented from a store that, availability permitting, stocked only proper wide-screen editions. The horror of seeing Manhattan panned and scanned on ITV on New Years Eve 1999, when I was drunk as all bejeesus with my trousers at half-mast and in no fit shape for to deal with anything quite so diabolical, will, I dare say, never leave my skull.
At least not until such times as everything else has left too, and I’m strapped to a bed in a hospital ward screaming about the Taliban bastards what stole my liver when I wasn’t looking.
(The horror is especially horrific when one considers the original clause in the studio contract which forbade Manhattan being broadcast in anything other than its original ratio.)
The way folks who were sat front row center for the duration of 1977 talk about Skywalker and that hairy bastard with the Kevin Rowland yelp, that’s how I feel about the first time I sat there on the sofa, a duvet flung around my trembling form, and ushered in the new day with Gershwin teasing my ears and Woody, Diane and the Brooklyn Bridge whispering lovelorn in the 2:35.
It was also around this time that I stopped trying to convince myself I was an atheist, and embarked on a journey similar to that which Woody embarks on in Hannah And Her Sisters, wandering around from Catholicism to Krishna, from country churches to inner-city temples, before finally, in the midst of an impenetrably dark evening spent hung-over and disgraced, I decided fuck it, I ain’t gonna spend my life trying to adjust to someone else’s idea of who or what God may be, I’m gonna be content with my own assumption, which is, I have no idea, but it’s comforting, the uncertainty.
Woody has his Epiphany during a screening of Duck Soup, but I think mine arrived in the middle of Ju-On – The Curse. Maybe if I’d known in advance, maybe then I’d have made sure something like The Gospel According To Matthew or The Passion Of Joan Of Arc had been on telly, but no, wasn’t to be. I had to wander along the road to Damascus in the company of a freaky woman crawling down the stairs and a youngster meowing like a fucking cat.
Someone leans over and asks me if I’m ok. Turns out I been thinking so much about that Toshio motherfucker that I too have been meowing like a cat, out loud, in the middle of this café no less, and so what can a man do but clutch his sides and pretend he’s got some kind of indigestion or some shit fucking no end with the innards.
I don’t think the girl with the New Jersey eyes noticed. In fact, I don’t think she’s even here anymore. She left ages ago, most likely, realizing that the longer she spent flicking through Naked Lunch in this café, the less chance there’d be that I’d ever get this fucking Woody Allen article started.
“Woody Allen is one of a select group of artists, a group that also includes Shane MacGowan and Billy Bragg, who have, for good or ill, shaped The Duke’s every bump and hiccup.”
What a fucking horrible opening line, man. Sweet mother of Christ I’d sooner wipe my arse with rusted iron than put that shit anywhere near an article regarding The Duke’s Thoughts On Woody Allen.
And this music, man, this horrible fucking pseudo-jazz middle class pish dripping from the speakers. This unspeakably bland toss that’s a world away from the kinda shit you’d hear on, say, the soundtrack of a Woody Allen picture. The day I see the black screen and the white writing and hear this kinda wretched heartache-by-numbers wank, I believe that day will end in bloodshed and unspeakable religious terrors, or at the very least, plenty muttering and scowling.
Muttering and scowling. The very words conjure imagines and recollections, a buncha pebbles skimming cross the crest of a fella’s head-gunk. I’ve endured far too much muttering and scowling in my time, and probably, truth be told, heaped far too much on others.
Dig this shit, would you ever, because to be honest, I think this in some way encapsulates the very point at which a fella realizes things are going all the wrong in Berlin;
I used to phone a young lady at around half twelve or one in the morning ever night, after her folks had gone to bed so she wouldn’t get grief for being on the phone at all hours, considering she had to work in the morning. Who the fuck you talking to, anyway, they’d demand to know? Some drunken bastard malcontent, I’ll bet.
Yes, this much would be accurate, but what they wouldn’t know is that from the second she picked up the phone until shortly after 7 when she’d hang up and get dressed, I had to do most of the yacking, on account of she couldn’t really make any noise.
Yack, she would implore, yack like you never done yacked ever even once, for the love of fuck, for that yacking of yours, it does my spirit good.
Most of the time, when I’d run out of ways to say “You make me smile”, I had to turn to the only other thing I could construct a sentence about; Manhattan.
Hours and hours spent exploring the very second I realized Manhattan had seeped into the fibre of my being, and how, truth be told, I’d come to realize that the me who hadn’t seen Manhattan and the me who had were two totally different people, and one of them hadn’t even seen Manhattan, for fucks sakes.
But then, one day, long after, when we didn’t have to whisper or nothin’ cause we were sitting beside each other and she was holding my hand, alla damn sudden, that talk of how “beautiful” Manhattan was, and her whimsy-eyed declarations about how she never heard anyone talk like that about anything so trivial as a film, and how it was wonderful, all this “beauty” talk, suddenly that became another one of the reasons why “This” wasn’t gonna work.
The moment that Manhattan talk turned from being something to cherish to being something to totally fucking despise with every inch of her hate-glands, that moment is pivotal in some way or other, I’m pretty sure.
One day I’ll figure it all out, but not today, that’s for damn sure, since look here, not even half a page scribbled in this damn thing. God is gonna kick my nuts in, is the truth of it all.
Why, a Dublin accent to my left enquires?
I explain to the girl with the Dublin accent that I’m trying to write an article on The Motherfucking Cinema Of Woody Allen, except I already did one time, but, like many of the things I’ve written, I can’t even look at it now without wanting to tear out my gums in disgust. I tell her that sometimes I just say sod it, I tried and failed, but other times, times like this here in fact, I need to address the situation.
I can’t sleep at night, I tell her, knowing that someone might assume that fucking horrible spunk-dust to be the definitive statement with regards What I Think About Woody Allen.
I tell her I’m undergoing some sort of reappraisal of every thought I’ve ever had, and I’m finding, to my deep anguish, that most of them were fucking useless.
There’s a piece of A4 printer paper poking out the sides of the notebook, and I unfold it for to illustrate my plight.
Look here, see, a review I wrote of Kinsey a couple months back. She takes it and looks at it and laughs, a whole lot, actually. That shit’s funny as all fuck, she says.
But it’s useless, I protest. Fucking useless is what it is.
Except I don’t even know what’s more useless, the stuff that’s just all jokes or the stuff that’s all self-obsessed pish for page after page. I mean, what works best?
The funny stuff, she says, and I say about how does she know? She never even read my critique of Star Wars Episode III, for example. Maybe it’d be the best Star Wars related article she ever fucking seen in her life.
Y’know, you’re like the guy in that Mel Brooks film, she says. Stardust Memories.
I tell her that, no, Stardust Memories is a Woody Allen picture, and a fucking great one, too.
Maybe she’s right though. In Stardust Memories, you’ll be aware, Woody plays a film director attending a retrospective of his work. Nowadays he’s doing all these intense, all-so-meaningful pictures, but all folks want is for him to go back to the slapstick shit he used to do. The early, funny ones.
The irony, of course, is that Woody Allen’s Love And Death, which fits snugly within the realms of The Early, Funny Ones is probably about 89% more profound than his later Alice, which is a much more self-consciously “serious” affair, although it’s still very quirky.
Similarly, I don’t know that, say, Sleeper isn’t a more chilling flick than September in its own way. I don’t know that Deconstructing Harry isn’t a far funnier film than Bananas, although, granted, Deconstructing Harry doesn’t have a Sylvester Stallone cameo.
I’ve got an idea, the girl announces, and for a second I hope it involves us being naked in some manner, and then immediately hope to fuck that it doesn’t, since there’d be no chance of this being finished should that be the case.
What she says is something along the lines of; Maybe you should write about how you see yourself reflected in these films? How these films somehow epitomize your day-to-day thought processes and neurotic obsessions?
I make a joke about how if I saw myself in these films they’d be the last films in the fucking universe I’d wanna be watching, but that’s just bullshit is all that is. Of course I see myself in these pictures, or hints of me, anyhow, traits and characteristics evident in this character or that.
Sometimes, for example, I feel like the sister in Crimes And Misdemeanors who’s so desperate for companionship that she ends up tied to a bed whilst a stranger takes a shit on her stomach. That’s me, man, tied to those bed-posts, a big steaming hunk a arse-paste freshly planted by a fella’s naval, and wondering all the while about how someone’s gonna have to untie me eventually, and holy fuck, what a diabolical tableaux that’ll be.
I don’t believe I’ve ever been shit on, although you never know, man. One drink leads to nine and next thing anyone knows it’s next Thursday and you can’t walk straight.
Except, I point out to this girl, I don’t drink anymore, and then I tell her why, and then, thankfully, she seems to forget.
You should write all this down, she says. This here, this is your article, for Gods sakes. What more do you need than this?
I tell her about how ridiculous that would be, how that would offend my every creative impulse, and so she changes the subject slightly, asking whatever happened with the lady from a few paragraphs ago, the one who ended up despising my Woody banter.
I tell her that said woman is a very beautiful person, and very special, and just last Christmas she bought me a book called Woody Allen On Woody Allen, and how it hurts sometimes to watch Manhattan, since that siren-score swelling at the opening, that right there can’t help but remind me of afternoons spent just listening to her sleeping, her head on my shoulder. Stuff like that.
Thankfully, it only takes a viewing of Annie Hall for to remind me how distant those memories are.
Because Annie Hall, I fully believe, illustrates perfectly the inevitable horrors waiting for a fella the other side of a nervous kiss. You’ll be aware that said illustration arrives in the form of a “love” scene, wherein Woody and Annie are in bed, getting up to some filth, and then Annie’s spirit gets up and sits on a chair whilst her body gets all sexed over. That scene says more about humanity and intimacy than all the marble in Greece.
Eventually, however far-fetched it may seem when those awkward glances are all a fella knows, the truth is that at some point one participant ends up screwing a shell.
The girl with the Dublin accent says I don’t believe that, that I’m not that cynical and I don’t have the arse for it anyhow.
What does she know, though? She’s safely removed from it all. She’s on the other side of a hypothetical conversation, she’s a fictionalised hybrid of a couple fantasies I maybe had some time ago.
I throw up right there and then, and all because of how pretentious I’ve become all of a damn sudden.
Woody Allen, you’ll be aware, would know all about that, how a fella can be stood gleefully mocking pretension one minute, and then, the very next second, he’s engaged in the kinda banter that could only be more pretentious if he was wearing a black and white beret at the time, maybe substituting the word very for tres.
But none of this shit has gotten me anywhere. The girl with the New Jersey eyes, the girl with the Dublin accent, they’ve all gone, if they were ever even here in the first place, and still not a fucking word worth the ink with regards Woody Allen.
Taking a walk around streets pulsating with grim, bloody history, that can’t help but inspire a fella. Unfortunately, a fella finds himself getting inspired in all the wrong fucking directions. A fella stretches out towards The Duke’s Thoughts On Woody Allen, but all the while there’s this rope around the ankle dragging him back to The Duke’s Thoughts On The Duke.
Fuck The Duke, man. If all he can yack about is The Duke then what worth is he to anyone? Scarcely a jot, is the truth of it all, although some ladies of ill repute would give colorful evidence to the contrary.
Some of good repute, too, like the singer who spends the summers wandering around Europe, hanging out in Parisian hotels, all terribly bohemian. One time I had this dream where myself and her were possibly about to filth for a time, but, for whatever reason, the topic of conversation shifted from “oh baby” and “oh darling” to something more along the lines of “I was talking to this cunt earlier tried to yack on about Woody Allen hasn’t made a good film since 1980.”
What did you do, the bohemian singer asks?
What could I do? I slapped him upside the mind with a cutting word or nine, the kindsa words that form questions reminiscent of “So, tell me, how many of Woody Allen’s films have you seen, these shit ones that supposedly emerged after 1980, how many are you familiar with?”
He couldn’t say a damn word. Sometimes later I heard him trying to convince his team-mates in a pub quiz that Hannah And Her Sisters was before Interiors. Fuck that cunt, is all I can hope to announce.
I dare say I might have coughed my nuts out in disgust had I not been escorted from the tavern by a fella with half a milk-bottle inserted discreetly up his arsehole.
A fella just gets uptight when ignorant motherfuckers with no justification whatsoever start badmouthing the thing that makes a fella feel like the world’s heading in the right direction for a time.
Like the other night when I was listening to Meadowlake Street by Ryan Adams And The Cardinals and someone said about Jesus, that’s depressing.
I don’t know what to say in those sortsa situations. I got the tears stinging the fuck out my eyes, the loneliness and the frustration is tearing cancerous rings out my soul, and this song, just that moment when he drops the falsetto for a line or two and sings about “I feel like a dream that’s not worth having” and a fella gets a glimpse of a pristine, beautiful clarity, that right there takes my breath for a moment. I can’t fathom why you don’t feel that too, and the last thing I need is for you to slight it in any way at this time. Maybe later, maybe when it’s not playing anymore, maybe when I feel a bit better rested and such, but not now, man. Not now.
There’s great art, indisputably great art, but then there’s special art, see, the kind a fella feels connected to at some level, however remote. I can’t have someone who doesn’t know what the fuck they’re yacking about badmouth that with no regard for a fella’s emotions.
An example of said connection; There’s a shot near the end of Crimes And Misdemeanors when Woody’s just sat on his own, nursing a vodka, all done up in his tuxedo, and he’s just endured the sights and sounds of the woman he loves giddily discussing her newly-forged relationship with the fella he detests most in the world. There’s a quiet dignity to that shot, but an almost unbearable melancholy, and it tears a fella up, even if the circumstances are different. Even if I ain’t been listening to anyone telling me how happy they are with some other motherfucker, I still recognize that pain, man.
Woody Allen has made shit flicks in his time, no doubt about it, but very, very few, and more than this, he’s made more genuine classics than any other director you might care to mention.
But fuck that, that means nothing other than he’s a talented filmmaker. He’s got something else going on, the same thing that has girls (and some fellas) stood front row at Bright Eyes concerts with their mouth open and their gaze fixed on that fucker with the floppy fringe hollering about “You were my SUNSHINE!!!!!” The same thing that has folks abandoning everything for to go hang out with Pete Doherty for a month or two. The same thing that has folks waiting with baited lung-juice for the next Nick Hornby novel.
He has that thing where, even though it’s fiction, even though the character maybe bears no resemblance whatsoever to Woody Allen the person, he has a world-view, a philosophy, a way of capturing a fella’s every foible that doesn’t “speak” to a fella, it whispers.
It says “I know what you mean.”
However much he may protest such banter, there’s no doubt Woody Allen knows exactly how 90% of the situations in his flicks affect a fella, he’s got observations and nuances in there that only someone who knows would know.
It’s the difference between a psychic at a fairground talking about “I see happiness in your palms” and Whoopi Goldberg showing up announced and yacking about “Girl, you in trouble”.
He knows, is what.
And fucking hell, man, if I could nail that line of thought, I think I might have a decent starting point for this bastard article.
I’m not a million percent sure who I am anymore, is the truth of the matter, but it ain’t depressing, it’s exhilarating. There’s some kind of deeply nauseating “journey” of some sort going on, and somehow seeing Melinda & Melinda a while back was like relating this sorta shit to a friend and having them say “I know what you mean. I know exactly.”
I wanna yack on and off about the shades of a fella’s character becoming dangerously distinct, about how that duel narrative in Melinda & Melinda, the comic versus the tragic, how I identified with that no end.
All I know for sure is that it looks like I’m never gonna have a fucking article fit for a title along the lines of The Duke On The Cinema Of Woody Allen. I can’t talk about Woody Allen without talking about me, and I’m spending all my damn time trying to figure out just how damaging that flaw might be. Who the fuck cares about what bullshit The Duke done got up to? Self-indulgent pish is fit for nothing but an old sock or a John Lennon record.
When he completed Manhattan, Woody Allen begged the studio to destroy it. He’d make them another flick for free, he said, if they just promised not to let that fucking thing loose on the public.
Shows what Woody Allen knows.
And maybe a fella can take heed of that particular piece of trivia, maybe he can see in it something like what the girl with the Dublin accent pointed out when she commented on how the The Duke Watches Kinsey made her laugh.
Maybe the last person who should be making assumptions about anything is the person responsible. Sometimes instincts are just fucking wrong, is all there is to it.
“Sometimes instincts are wrong, like when Woody Allen wanted to destroy Manhattan on account of he assumed it to suck.”
I tear the last three pages out the notebook and throw them the fuck across the street, before realizing what I’ve done.
I throw it in a dust-bin instead. Losing one’s sense of oneself is no motherfucking excuse for littering.
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