TWO HAMS ON WRY

O'Brien, Tom

Screen TWO HAMS ON WRY WOODY ALLEN & MICHAEL PALIN WOODY ALLEN has often seemed too narrow for my taste. His sole subjects, he once said in Sleeper, were sex and death. He modified this to Love...

...But when with Betty his gluttony is softened and inverted...
...But its comic tone is sharpened by a hint only a hint, mind you of how desperate need can transform men into swine...
...And as his own antagonist, Daniels as Shepherd the actor is equally convincing...
...Accordingly, they order Gil Shepherd (again, Jeff Daniels), the actor who played Baxter in the film, to track the character down and bring him back "alive...
...As Cecilia learns, real men don't eat popcorn...
...Indeed, they make up its only happy couple...
...A better title would be ham-on-wry...
...The only clinker is a forced scene in a brothel...
...His onscreen film, the title of which is the source for Allen's, is atypical thirties blend of adventure and high life...
...His best scene is his refusal, as owner of a pet store, to take back a dead parrot he had sold nailed to its perch...
...Their enemy is the stuffy Dr...
...He likes her, takes to feeding her on ginger snaps, and can't face the day of her sacrifice to the royal couple...
...In film, Palin perfects a caricature of innocence, an understated Chaplin, permanently sadsacked by good intentions and bad luck...
...Now she dominates The Purple Rose of Cairo with an equally compelling performance of a completely opposite kind...
...Widening his scope, Allen has created sublime sentimental comedy...
...Woody Allen's Beatrice is Mia Farrow, who played the foil to his own Broadway Danny Rose as a marvelous New Jersey gun moll...
...He's fictional, but then you can't have everything...
...Allen's Mecca, after all, is Manhattan, where he also finds his most appreciative audience...
...Palin used different talents in Monty Python than in films...
...The premise of the action in The Purple Rose may be absurd, but its execution is perfectly carried through by the way Allen maps the madcap consequences and Farrow keeps her naif face straight.' 'I met a great man the other day," she tells a friend...
...When Baxter skips out on their night at the Copacabana, the high-livers are left with nothing to do except play cards and wait, inaction that sends the movie audience into rages...
...While Swaby pursues chiropody and porcine iniquity, he himself is pursued by the vigilant Inspector Wormold, (Bill Patterson) the town's resident Big Brother and Malvolio...
...In the televised skits, he casts a maniacal glare, combined with brazen cocksureness, to sell absurdity...
...Fortunately, however, Allen coordinates his inside moves, and his knowing playfulness with filmic conventions, with a continually compelling human story...
...participate), and an amazing porcine look-alike, the accountant Allardyce (Richard Griffiths...
...Last year, in Broadway Danny Rose, Allen returned to his vaudeville roots, and produced some mildly amusing comedy that even managed several locales outside New York City...
...The irony is delicious...
...In A Private Function, Palin plays Dr.Chilvers, a chiropodist who tenderly cares for ladies' feet and who wouldn't harm a fly...
...The plot involves a conspiracy to raise a pig in secret, away from the eyes of socialist government meat inspectors, and to roast it for a special party in honor of the marriage of then Princess Elizabeth...
...We are not talking about pork, but power,'' Maggie Smith grandly declares at one point...
...To adapt the conclusion of Swift's satirical masterpiece on trends in modern writing, The Tale of the Tub, such reduction of imagination represents ' 'the ghost of wit, delighting to walk after the death of its body...
...It's not dead," he protested, "it's resting...
...To wit: he kidnaps the pig, but can't bring himself to kill it...
...With only slight vulgarity, A Private Function becomes a Horatian ode on the gut, a genteel version of Joyce's savage satire in' 'Lestrygonians" of Ulysses...
...He's two Peter Ustinovs, not above salvaging marzipan from his wife's toenail clippings...
...In The Purple Rose of Cairo after some marvelous scene setting, by cinematographer Gordon Willis, of a Depression winter with abandoned factories, empty amusement parks, and motionless trains my heart sank when Cecilia's hero first came off the screen and I sensed the onset of "theory of fiction...
...The only thing missing as she shrews him about the house and after the pig is, "give me the daggers...
...The film is wittily based on an insider joke on movies, but it breathes a wider, more expansive emotional atmosphere than any of Allen's previous films...
...Baxter, a pyramidologist, is lured to Manhattan 19 April 1985: 245 by touring socialites (Van Johnson, Ed Hermann, Zoe Caldwell...
...He modified this to Love and Death in another film, and perpetually modified it to include his own Little Big Man ego in almost everything else...
...John Cleese starred in the miserable Privates on Parade last year and his high-class loudmouth has worked well in a few radio commercials for British products, but other members of the troupe are rarely seen or heard...
...The hero of Cecilia's beloved movie is Tom Baxter (Jeff Daniels), compelled to enter real life by the sight of Cecilia's big beige eyes...
...But Baxter the character enjoys too good a life...
...No one represents the culture of films in America more than Allen, but he has too frequently exercised his cinematic craftsmanship in an annoyingly cerebral fashion, as if we really should care about his importation of the mock-heroic of perpetual failure...
...The facial exchanges between Allardyce and Betty provide the film's real romance...
...Thus, in Allen's hands, Cecilia becomes a classic American dreamer, a domestic Bovary an inversion of his own highly comical treatment of Flaubert's heroine in the short story, "The Kugelmass Episode...
...Liberated from narcissistic masochism, he imagines his way into another life, and even unites knowing and feeling...
...maybe I overdid it.'' With his aw-shucks portrait of the vapid, rising young star Shepherd, Daniels catches the essence of a real Iago...
...Although he has written and directed the film, he doesn't appear, and perhaps has discovered salvation in not centering the film on himself but on a genuinely beautiful loser...
...Swaby (Denholm Elliot), who hates Palin for intruding on his medical turf, and who masterminds the Tory pig scam...
...WHATEVER happened to Monty Python, besides reruns, that is...
...He gorges on popcorn, spends fake money like mad, and discovers to his delight that kissing Cecilia doesn't end with a fade-out...
...Daniels (formerly the unfaithful husband in Terms of Endearment) provides excellent light comedy as he prowls the streets in a pyramidologist's pith helmet, even more sublimely innocent than Farrow...
...His offscreen caper provides the cue for a fine set of zany complications...
...As in The Missionary, Palin again teams with Maggie Smith, the accomplished British tragedian who here portrays a perfectly comic Lady Macbeth...
...What if all their characters flee...
...True enough...
...At the center of the absurd plot is Betty the Pig (so credited, although three porkers from "Intellectual Animals, Ltd...
...With this cast and these contrivances, the essence of the spy-thriller a double chase is hilariously turned into a bumbling ' 'pin-the-tail-on-the-piggie.'' Indeed, the film mounts a superb, suggestive, mock-heroic on what people wouldn't do for a piece of meat...
...In the film, Cecilia's frequent attendance at the local movie finally provokes one of its leading characters to love her, then to leap off the screen to woo...
...In the same way Woody Allen evokes the Depression, screenwriter Alan Bennett and Director Alan Mowbray, two BBC veterans, recreate the threadbare poverty of the late Empire, when everyone from quaint old mums to spoiled matrons and grizzled workers with red, hardscrabble faces can't stop gorging on whatever they can grab...
...The exception is Michael Palin, in the mildly amusing film The Missionary (1982), and now in A Private Function, a screwball farce on meat rationing in postwar Britain...
...In some ways, A Private Function is an impossible film to release in the year of Ethiopia, but then comedy can be forgiven for providing something completely different...
...he seems so trustworthy...
...Allardyce is elaborately jowled, and vested as if stuffed...
...Most of the time, I am suffocated by the insiderness of his art and their cheers...
...Farrow plays Cecilia, a young woman as sweetly sibilant as her name involved in a bad marriage, inept as a waitress, and in love with the movies...
...Normally I am bored by even suspicious of art about art, the self-referential absorption of poems on poetry, novels on novelists, and films about filmmaking...
...In The Purple Rose of Cairo, however, Allen has finally earned some of the hoopla surrounding his other releases...
...the film is a spoof on class and respectability, those old British subjects...
...From a case of German measles while young, Wormold can neither smell nor taste placing him beyond sympathy for the meat-hungry townsfolk, but also making him incapable of "smelling" them out...
...It's the Depression, when films deeply fed the need to escape modern life, and Cecilia swallows them with wide-open, hungry eyes...
...TOM O'BRIEN...
...Shepherd also falls in love with Cecilia when she praises his acting.' 'I worked so hard to make him real," Danjels (as Shepherd) explains of Daniels (as Baxter...
...Producers and studio lawyers fret over the possibility of Baxter's rebellion spreading...
...In Allen's fiction, Emma comes out of the novel to make mischief for one would-be lover/reader, Irving Kugelmass...
...Of course, Allen has some other subjects: Fellini, Truffaut, or Bergman, and how he does or doesn't resemble them in his self-appointed role as the High European Tradition Flatbushed and Schlemieled...

Vol. 112 • April 1985 • No. 8


 
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