Saturday, September 6, 2014

WoodyAllen. Interview. StigBjörkman. WoodyAllen on WoodyAllen. GrovePress. 1995.

1.       Your second film, Bananas [] was made in 1971, during a period when these kind of revolutionary uprisings were a fact in many Latin American countries. It was also the time of the Vietnam war. What were your own political ideas at this time, and how have they developed and changed over the years? Do you consider yourself a political person?
2.       No, I don’t think I’m a political person. I’m basically – you could say to 99 per cent – a liberal democrat. That’s pretty much what I was; I was against the war, as everyone knew I was. I’m basically not very political. I’ve compaigned for certain politicians. Like show people sometimes do.
3.       Which people have you supported in this way?
4.       Originally, when I was younger, I campaigned for Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern and Eugene McCarthy. All those guys who have lost. I campaigned for Lyndon Johnson when he ran against Barry Goldwater. I’ve campaigned for Jimmy Carter, for Michael Dukakis. And now I’ve given my name to the Clinton people. I’m basically a democratic liberal.
5.       I wanted to pose this question also, because in later films, like Annie Hall or Manhattan, you make ironical remarks about left-wing intellectuals, a group of people of which I presume you count yourself as a member.
6.       Yes, and which I observe.
7.       In the beginning of Bananas we hear quite ironical remarks on the American influence on other countries and specially on the Latin American countries. In the big crowd of people that has gathered outside the parliament building there is someone who is forcing himself through the crowd claiming he is a representative of American television.
8.       Well, in the United States it has huge power. I don’t know how it is abroad, but in American it’s gigantic. From our point of view the governments of Latin America have never seemed to work too well. The United States of America, relatively speaking, has always had a stable government. So it’s always seemed strange to us how unstable these countries were. [It must be very strange in Upper East Side, Manhattan, NY.] They’ve changed leaders and policy so frequently.
9.       But there has also been the very strong and devastating influence of the United States upon these countries. On countries like Chile and Argentina, in particular.
10.   Yes, without a question. The American influence has been severe, with enormous exploitation.
11.   There is an ironical comment towards the end of the film where you address another part of the world, our part of the world. One character quotes Kierkegaard and says, ‘Scandinavians have such an instinctive feeling for the human condition.’ And later on it’s stated that the official language for the new republic of San Marco will be Swedish. Your strong feelings for Scandinavia and, particularly, Sweden is manifested here.
12.   Yes, I’ve always like the Scandinavian countries and, of course, Sweden led the pack, because my interest in Sweden originally came through Swedish cinema. But I like that part of the world. I like the way it looks, I like the weather. There’s just something about it that’s interesting to me.
13.   You’ve read Strindberg, of course, but are you acquainted with anybody else in Scandinavian literature or with Scandinavian art?
14.   I’m acquainted with that which everyone is acquainted with, the paintings of Edvard Munch, the music of Sibelius or Allan Pettersson – those things we all know. I do enjoy Scandinavian culture to a certain degree, but we only get a certain amount of it here. And the best, most generous, and most important was, of course, the Bergman films. There you see Swedish life. You get a very good feel for Scandinavian culture through those films. [Fucking moron.] With Strindberg it’s something else. You read his plays or go and see one of them at the theatre – Dance of Death, for instance – and it might be a good production, but you don’t get the same feel from it. With Bergman you see the Swedish settings, the cities, the countryside, the churches and the people. It’s different.

1.       In this end scene you have the J. Edgar Hoover character played by a black actor. This is one of the very few parts in your films portrayed by a black. There is, for instance, the black sergeant in Love and Death, put there as a kind of anachronistic figure, and there is a black character in Sleep and the black maid in the film within the film in The Purple Rose of Cairo. But apart from that there are almost no black people in your films. Why?
2.       Do you mean in principal roles or in general? [Fucking prick.]
3.       In general. We almost never see any black extras in the films even.
4.       Well, usually there are two different situations when it comes to extras. One is that we just call up the extra people and say, ‘Send over a hundred extras or twenty extras or something.’ And they usually send over a mixture of people. I mean, if it’s a street in New York, they usually send over a mixture of hispanics, black and white people. But that’s just something we call up and order for background. I mean, we don’t buy them by the pound. Then for principal roles, I don’t know the black experience well enough to really write about it with any authenticity. In fact, most of my characters are so limited locally. They’re mostly New Yorkers, kind of upper-class, educated, neurotic. It’s almost the only thing that I ever write about, because it’s almost the only thing I know. I just don’t know enough about these other experiences. I have, for instance, never written anything about an Irish family or an Italian family, because I don’t really know enough about it.
5.       I’ve also noticed this, because in Hollywood films from the last decade or so black actors or black characters have been given more parts in the movies. This is maybe especially true with the cop films, where there is often a white cop working together with a black cop, and the black guy has taken over the classical ‘buddy’ part. It has almost become a pattern.
6.       Yes, one does tend to get more blacks in the film business. But, for instance, when I did Hannah and Her Sisters, I was writing about a milieu that I know quite well. And I made the maid black because in those families 90 per cent of the time the maid is black. I got a lot of criticism from black people who wrote me letters and said, ‘You never use blacks, and when you use one, it’s in a menial job.’ Now, I’m not thinking of that when I write the character. In my political life – whatever that is – I’m always very pro all those candidates who want the most generous accomodation for blacks. I’ve marched with Martin Luther King in Washington. [This supposed to mean something only to him.] But, when I’m writing, I don’t believe in equal opportunity or affirmative action. You can’t do that. So when I was trying to draw a picture accurately, it just seemed to me that those families on Upper West Side almost always had black help. So that’s the way I did it. But I did get criticized for it. I’m just trying to depict the reality as I experience it, my own authenticity. In the same sense, if I was depicting the kind of Jewish family that I grew up in, I would depict them, accurately, with that which is flattering and that which is unflattering. I’ve also had an enormous amount of criticism from Jewish groups who feel that I have been very harsh or denigrating or critical. So there’s a lot of sensitivity always on these matters. But the only thing I try to let guide me is the authenticity of the scene.

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