Sunday, April 03, 2005

One Woody, Two Melindas, a Thousand Possibilities

This is the French poster for 'Melinda & Melinda,' and I like it better than the American one because it gets at the heart of the movie without you knowing it. Yes, film (like life) can be comedy or tragedy, but there's still someone behind it all, pulling the strings: the dutiful, faceless director, who decides what we see and how we see it. In Woody's mind, 'Melinda & Melinda' might be a Nietzschian examination of the purpose of man's purposelessness, but it functions on a completely cinematic level too. It is an exercise in narrative maneuvers -- how characters and audiences are manipulated -- and how at any moment things may stop suddenly. Woody illustrates this in the last shot of the film, when Wallace Shawn snaps his fingers and we are left suddenly to confront the world we'd paid $10 to escape. In his review, Roger Ebert takes this idea further and concludes with, "At the end of 'Melinda and Melinda,' we realize that neither Melinda nor Melinda is real, but Woody Allen certainly is."

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