Looking at the author photograph of Dan Fante -- which depicts a sixtysomething, moon-faced, grimacing bald man in a leather bomber jacket aiming a piLooking at the author photograph of Dan Fante -- which depicts a sixtysomething, moon-faced, grimacing bald man in a leather bomber jacket aiming a pistol indiscriminately upward while just behind him four seagulls spread their wings in a cloudless sky -- I was first struck by his intangible Martin Balsam quality, and then as is often the case with books such as Chump Change, I was revisited by the question of authenticity. (i.e., Is this guy for real?? I mean, c'mon...)
Dan Fante is the son of John Fante (Ask the Dust) who inspired Charles Bukowski who inspired Dan Fante. This chain of influence (and genetics) already announces the subgenre we're dealing with here. It's that grimy, grubby late afternoon, long-shadowed L.A. drunken squalor genre... you know, with the underage gazelle-like hookers and the colorful, angry Mexicans and the strip mall liquor stores every other block and the cheap motels with colorful 1950s-era neon signage out front and the commercial-grade low-pile carpeting in the rooms with indecipherable brownish-reddish-blackish stains in the shapes of forgotten Latin American countries. To point you in the right direction, I'll tell you that Bruno Dante, the author's surrogate (à la Henry Chinaski) -- working as a dating service salesman -- ejaculates into his customer's tuna salad in the midst of a late morning wine cooler bender. Don't ask. Context is everything.
Anyway. This book is surprisingly moving. At the end. Once you get past the dogfight, the stuttering hooker, and the fact that apparently no one bothered to proofread it before it was published. Unless 'unphased' has now been officially christened as a real word by the linguistic powers-that-be. (Like when the people who put together dictionaries finally just threw up their hands and surrendered in the face of inexorable misuse and decided they'd let 'alright' be an official word, although it isn't. See? The terrorists won). Also, jeezus fuckin' christ. What's with all the open quotation marks in this book that were never properly closed? You can't believe how incomplete this leaves me feeling. I'm still waiting -- even as I type this -- for the characters to finish speaking, but now they never will. Forever. ...more
1. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul 2. Martha 3. Veronika Voss 4. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant 5. Whity 6. The Merchant of Four Seasons 7. Satan's Brew 8. Bewar1. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul 2. Martha 3. Veronika Voss 4. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant 5. Whity 6. The Merchant of Four Seasons 7. Satan's Brew 8. Beware of a Holy Whore 9. Chinese Roulette 10. Berlin Alexanderplatz 11. In a Year of 13 Moons 12. Why Does Herr R. Run Amok? (co-directed w/Michael Fengler) 13. Mother Kusters Goes to Heaven 14. Fox and His Friends 15. Lola 16. The Third Generation 17. Effi Briest 18. Love Is Colder Than Death 19. Gods of the Plague 20. The American Soldier 21. Fear of Fear 22. The Stationmaster's Wife 23. Katzelmacher 24. The Marriage of Maria Braun (OVERRATED!) 25. Pioneers in Ingolstadt 26. The Niklashausen Journey (co-directed w/Michael Fengler)
Even though this gift was ironic in nature -- and trust me, is it ever! -- that won't stop me from placing it between Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's GulaEven though this gift was ironic in nature -- and trust me, is it ever! -- that won't stop me from placing it between Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, Volume 1 and Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason on my bookshelf. I am hoping someone (anyone!) will peruse my multicolored spines -- which allude to my general seriousness and gravity -- and get entirely the wrong idea. (I just hope that someone isn't my mother. Ew.) If that someone (again, NOT my mother) were a prospective sexual partner (after she's been fingerprinted, checked for communicable diseases, and run through a complicated vetting system) or prospective urologist, it would of course be a case of bait-and-switch. Like when Best Buy advertises a sale on Sony 170" Plasma 3-D television sets for $399, but they only ever had one, so they'll cut you a deal on this old dusty JVC piece-of-shit (19", giant tube, fake wood casing, dials) they've had sitting in the break room. I'm not saying that my penis is a JVC, but it's certainly not going to come out on top on the Consumer Reports comparison shopping chart. But it's serviceable. Meaning that it has been serviced before. Beyond that, you'll just have to love me for me. Circumcised. Average. Chafed. Shopworn.
Anyway. You know what? This book is really funny! I'm not even kidding you. (I have to believe that, otherwise I have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old boy.) Okay, don't believe me? Go to the humor section of your local big box bookstore -- perhaps the Barnes and Noble flagship store in Union Square? -- and pick up this book. If you are a man, be sure to hold the book up high, so passersby can see it, but make sure you step away from the humor section and go stand by the health/self-help section. Scratch your chin as you leaf through it, and occasionally nod at the words on the page and say, 'Mm-hmm' in affirmation, as if you have finally found the understanding and compassion you have been looking for. Is this immature? Imbecilic? Pointless? You bet. That's what's so great about it.
I got this book as a Kwanzaa/Ramadan gift from my sister, who would probably sooner schedule pointless elective surgery (i.e., have her earlobes removI got this book as a Kwanzaa/Ramadan gift from my sister, who would probably sooner schedule pointless elective surgery (i.e., have her earlobes removed and replaced with identitical polystyrene replicas?) than watch a Woody Allen film -- although wait a minute. She did in fact see (and halfway enjoy) Match Point, but that doesn't really count because in her selective classification system it was a Scarlett Johansson film, not a Woody Allen film. And to be fair, in many respects, Match Point wasn't a real Woody Allen film at all, even with its apparent thematic similarities to the far superior Crimes and Misdemeanors and its obligatory depiction of a certain endangered cultural species: the urbane, well-heeled, high-brow intellectual who sups at Elaine's (or, in this case, the London equivalent) and both reads and mocks (as is fitting) The New York Review of Books.
First of all, the over-the-title star of most Woody Allen films after Love and Death -- the Mythical Allenesque Manhattan -- was sadly absent in Match Point in a seemingly strategic bid to reinvent the Woody Allen Film®, which by most counts is beyond repair. (I still insist that Allen hasn't made a Woody Allen Film® since Deconstructing Harry, a dozen years ago.) Allen has joked many times, here, there, and everywhere, that -- like a wild animal adapted to one specific climate -- he would simply shrivel up and die if relocated to a new habitat. And the old habitat he is clinging to here isn't New York City; it isn't even Manhattan; it's, more particularly, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the United States, the Upper East Side. This same regionalism apparently applies to his films. Yeah, sure, I know there are advocates of Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but there's something about them that rubs me the wrong way. They're too theoretical and artificial. It's as if -- in the case of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, for instance -- Allen studied his options carefully ahead of time and turned to Soon Yi one day and said, 'I'm going to make a Pedro Almodovar film now.' Not a straight-up Almodovar film, mind you, but an Almodovar film filtered through the prism of Allen's cultural elite, a subset so specific and 'real' that it probably rivals J.D. Salinger's. (You could probably even argue Broadway Danny Rose is informed by a down-one's-nose glance at the social milieu of that film. But I won't.)
Anyway. What was I saying? Oh yeah. I got this book from my sister, and it's pretty worthless. It's just a couple of film stills from each of his films paired with short quotes (usually quips) from Allen (some of which are already very familiar to Allen fans). What's the point really? I could try it out as a coffee table book, but (1) I don't like books on my coffee table, (2) it's too small to be a coffee table book, and (3) the cover is kind of cheap-looking. In short, this is far from the best that Taschen has to offer.
There. I've reviewed the book. Now that I've taken care of that, I'm gonna list my favorite Woody Allen films (in order of preference) because that's the real reason this review exists.
1. Manhattan 2. Manhattan Murder Mystery* 3. Annie Hall 4. Crimes and Misdemeanors 5. Hannah and Her Sisters 6. Husbands and Wives 7. Love and Death 8. Interiors 9. Sleeper 10. Broadway Danny Rose 11. Deconstructing Harry 12. Mighty Aphrodite 13. Stardust Memories 14. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy 15. Bullets Over Broadway 16. Zelig 17. Another Woman 18. The Purple Rose of Cairo 19. Match Point 20. Alice
* I take a lot of flak for placing MMM so high on the list, but these are my favorites -- emphasis on my -- so bite me. (Hear that, Reynolds?) Interestingly enough, there is a quote from Allen in this book in which he claims MMM is one of his best films (and one of the most fun to make)... not that his self-evaluations are usually very trustworthy....more