In an impassioned review of Woody Allen’s magnum opus, ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986), Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert wrote the following passage: “We try to organize our lives according to what we have read and learned and believed in, but our plans are lost in a tumult of emotion.”
Mang Roger, as I like to call him, had always been among my favorite writers, not merely because he penned reviews I more often than not agreed with, but because he unfailingly, even for the films he’d come to revile, wrote with such an evocation of genuine feeling.
On a whim, as “Hannah and Her Sisters” stands by and large a personal favorite, I recounted this passage to a girl who shall herein be named, only for the purposes of this column, Revolution.
I had imagined, owing to the minor detail of her being a film major, that she would share the same enthusiasm I had for such poignant writing about the movies. The reputation of the university she attends preceded her, and the childish, sweeping generalizations I’d made in my head were inclusive of, but not limited to, her having an encyclopedic knowledge of everything there was ever to know about the movies.
“Naturally,” she replied, brimming with a snark I had, in the past couple of dinner-dates, grown accustomed to.
You see, in an emotional rambling she had been graceful enough to withstand quietly, I had once been all too vocal about my fanaticism over Mr. Allen’s oeuvre.
As it turns out, she didn’t care much for it. Revolution was adamant; she maintained that one cannot simply compartmentalize one’s perceptions about the art and the artist. I conceded, again owing to the fact that whatever came out of her highly-educated smart-mouth, I would immediately perceive as gospel. As charming as ‘Annie Hall’ was, she explained, the allegations against Mr. Allen--that of molesting his own (now formerly) adopted a child--is too glaring a dent in the man’s person to simply sweep under the rug.
My painstaking admission was that I had done my share of overlooking.
For instance, just this September, comedian Louis C.K., another artist whose work across platforms (in television, the nihilistic ‘Louie’ and the morose ‘Horace and Pete’) and stand-up comedy specials I have admired for years, has been met with disturbing allegations of sexual misconduct himself. Particularly, as per the accusations of actress Roseanne Barr, C.K. would lock himself in a room with fellow comics and pleasure himself—presumably in full view of his captives.
“So who do you like, then?” I inquired sheepishly. “Strictly the morally upstanding ones?”
“Chis Marker,” Revolution replied gamely. “I like his film essays, as well as his documentaries. Also, kasi socialist siya.”
Hurriedly, I made as if I was checking my phone, so as to hide the fact that I had begun looking up who the hell Chris Marker was. As it happens, Mr. Marker’s record is of relative purity (Marker was a recluse) compared to that of Woody Allen’s widely-debated private life.
This, I would have to believe, is the gamble we as gentle spectators, must make with art and its appreciation. The conundrum is made apparent when you go beyond the mere knowledge of the work, and subsequently delve deeper into the person who had the audacity to place oneself, as well as the product of his consciousness, at the mercy of public scrutiny.
To wit, in writing for BBC Culture, art critic Fisun Guner wrote the following in relation to the contentious subject of separating the art and the artist: “...It’s never just about the work. What we do when we celebrate an artist is often to bolster the myth of their life.”
“We do this with Caravaggio exactly because we’re fascinated by his earthy and seductive ‘bad boy’ image,” Guner added in conclusion.” That roughness and that sexuality make him feel alive to us and incredibly modern, as alive as the figures in his paintings. And we do this with Oscar Wilde, who we celebrate today for exactly those things that ensured his condemnation in life.”
She and I finally came to an agreement; this line of thinking was the most logical.
By the evening’s conclusion, however, after I had chivalrously accompanied her back to the steps of Maskom, I had won myself a small victory. My raving over the film (and, I guess, Roger Ebert’s too) had apparently piqued much of her interest. As of writing, upon a quick perusal of Revolution’s hard drive, there laid in all its glory, is a folder plainly named as follows: “Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)”.
(First published on The LANCE's September Issue)