Joan Didion’s 1979 Woody Allen Takedown

Here’s a 1979 essay by Joan Didion from the New York Review of Books in which she takes aim at Woody Allen’s then-recent “serious” movies: Manhattan, Interiors and Annie Hall. She doesn’t love them!

These are not possible constructions, but they reflect exactly the false and desperate knowingness of the smartest kid in the class. “When it comes to relationships with women I’m the winner of the August Strindberg Award,” the Woody Allen character tells us in Manhattan; later, in a frequently quoted and admired line, he says, to Diane Keaton, “I’ve never had a relationship with a woman that lasted longer than the one between Hitler and Eva Braun.” These lines are meaningless, and not funny: they are simply “references,” the way Harvey and Jack and Anjelica and A Sentimental Education are references, smart talk meant to convey the message that the speaker knows his way around Lit and History, not to mention Show Biz.

The whole thing is pretty fascinating and excellent and well worth reading. And it feels especially prescient today, where half of the “comedy” on the internet is more focused on referencing something in a new way than making jokes. [via]

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