17 October 2016

Loves "Bicycle Thieves." Hates Cyclists?

Nobody has an unbiased opinion--well, all right, nobody has an unbiased opinion, right?

So let's just say that nobody can be, um, neutral when it comes to Woody Allen.

As repulsed as I was by his affair with, then marriage to, a woman decades younger than he whom he and his ex-wife adopted as a baby, I was--still am--willing to admit that I enjoyed Annie Hall and Manhattan when they came out.  I thought even Hannah and Her Sisters and Stardust Memories were pretty good.  All right, I'll admit that part of the latter film's appeal for me lay in my uncle's bit role in it.

Image result for Woody Allen bicycle
Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix in Irrational  Man

But almost nothing he's done since Hannah has appealed to me.  Irrational Man, which came out last year, was torture to see:  It felt like a murder mystery written the way some self-absorbed sophomore imagines how Jean-Paul Sartre or Soren Kierkegaard might have written it.  Or, perhaps, it's Woody Allen's own idea of how he might have made Dead Poets Society (a favorite of mine) were he up to the task.

I know, I'm not Pauline Kael.  So why am I ranting about a would-be auteur whose time has come and gone in this blog?  Well, I have recently found another thing to further becloud my judgment when it comes to Mr. Allen:  He's anti-bike.  More precisely, he's anti-cyclist.

Woody Allen at the Community Board meeting n which he voiced his opposition to bike lanes on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

He didn't become that way overnight, although it became plain for all to see when he opposed the city's plan to paint a bike lane on East 70th Street--which just happens to be the street on which he lives.  (A little bit of NIMBY, wouldn't you say?) For years, he's been blaming "out of control" cyclists for making the city a worse place.  Why, he even blames them (us:  He thinks all cyclists are "out of control"!) for everything from making the streets more dangerous to--are you ready for this?-- that there is no "graceful" way for any street on the Upper East Side, where he lives, to accomodate bike lanes.

He made his prejudices known at his local community board's hearing in May.  But not everyone who attended that meeting agreed with him.  And, apparently, not the city's Department of Transportation, either:  While they decided not to paint lanes on East 70th and 71st Streets, they are going to put them on East 67th and 68th Streets as well as 77th and 78th, and 84th and 85th, Streets.  Traffic on each of those streets is unidirectional:  eastbound on the even-numbered streets of each pairing, and westbound on the odd-numbered ones.  All of them run from Central Park (at Fifth Avenue) to the East River.

For what it's worth, Allen still says that Bicycle Thieves is still one of his favorite films, but admits that he doesn't have it in him to make anything of its magnitude.


  1. I owe getting to live with someone to stealing a line from one of his earlier movies, you know, the earlier ones which were you could laugh.

    Does not mean that I shall not now boycott his movies, his past follies pale into insignificance compared to this!

    Do you think there is some deep psychological problem at work here? Did he fail to learn to ride, was he humiliated by having to ride a "girl's" bike, did he fall off? we shall never know but I hope it costs a fortune in therapy! What a jerk.

  2. I seem to remember "Sleeper" as being pretty funny. Can't really remember much since I saw it back in the 70's. Most of his movies are sort like sitting through a root canal without benefit of novacaine. Still it's a shame that such a prominent New Yorker is such a wienie on the bike issue.

  3. I guess it's just a sign that Woody is getting OLD!

  4. Steve--That could be. After all, he's 80 years old, if I'm not mistaken.

    Phillip--I remember liking "Sleeper", too, though I don't remember much of it. You description of his other movies is great. I have long felt that, more than anything, he's a whiner.

    Coline--Interesting theory. Perhaps he indeed had some traumatic childhood experience related to bicycles. If it cost him a fortune in therapy, I wouldn't be worried: He can afford it, I'm sure.

  5. I thought "Match Point" and especially "Midnight in Paris" were really good. No bicycles though.