Friday, April 26, 2019

Woody Allen and the Frank Sinatra philosophy

You could sum the Sinatra philosophy up in three precepts:
  1. Respect your emotions: your heart wants what it wants.
  2. The most important factor for human happiness is being in a sexual relationship.
  3. Whether to have or not to have sex should depend only on two things:
    • the presence or absence of rationally defensible moral reasons to do or not do it.
    • Consent on the part of both partners
A lot of people my age, including me in my twenties, adopted that as a life philosophy. Some people, perhaps a lot of people, born since 1980 aren't so positive about it. It's day may be over. Woody Allen's day certainly seems to be over. He's not physically dead yet but ...

And so I've been revisiting his movies. For better or worse, Woody and I have been through it together. (I'll probably have more to say about that in the near future.) Last night I watched Whatever Works which isn't his all-time worst but it's not very good.

Here are a series of quotes for you consideration

This is Frank Sinatra being asked about what he believes:
Basically, I'm for anything that gets you through the night - be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.

And here is a hit song from 1970, written by Kris Kristofferson inspired by that Sinatra quote:

This is from Roger Ebert's positive review of Whatever Works:
“Whatever Works” charts a journey for Allen, one from the words of Groucho to the wisdom of Pascal, who informs us, as Allen once reminded us, that the heart has its reasons.
Ebert forgets to give us the context for that quote. Here is Woody justifying his sexual relationship with a woman 40 years his junior to Time Magazine:
Well, who knows? It's perfectly healthy. But I don't think equal is necessarily a desideratum. Sometimes equality in a relationship is great, sometimes inequality makes it work. But it's an equal-opportunity relationship. I mean, I'm not equal to her in certain ways. 
The heart wants what it wants. There's no logic to those things. You meet someone and you fall in love and that's that.
This is one of the summing up lines from the movie Whatever Works:
That's why I can't say enough times, whatever love you can get and give, whatever happiness you can filch or provide, every temporary measure of grace, whatever works.

Those all express attitudes that go with the Sinatra philosophy.

What to conclude? I don't fully know. I was struck, though, by this bit from an article about Whatever Works:
Despite apparently obvious resonance with his own personal life – he has been married to Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his long-time girlfriend Mia Farrow, since 1997, when she was 27 and he was 61 – Allen insists that the movie is in no way autobiographical.
Indeed, he originally wrote the screenplay in the mid-Seventies, with Zero Mostel, the corpulent star of The Producers, in mind for the lead. When Mostel died in 1977, Allen put the script away in a drawer, where it remained until someone suggested that David would be good for the part.
‘All I had to do was change the topical references,’ he says. ‘But the script was the same – many, many years before I met my wife.’ 
Chronology is being used as a defense here: he wrote this years before. Taken from another perspective, though, that's a problem: through his adult life "whatever works" for Woody and many of his male characters has meant having sex with a young, impressionable and vulnerable woman. 

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