Friday, 6 January 2017

Anita Brookner, Woody Allen, Circles, Asides

...most great artists follow the same basic arcs: an early, immature period with highs and lows; a 'middle period,' which serves as the artist's de facto Golden Age; and the inevitable decline, replete with successes, attempts, retreads, and experiments.
Alex Sheremet, Woody Allen: Reel to Real

Close readers of this blog may have noticed I'm also a Woody Allen fan, though the interest isn't quite to the same degree as the Brookner thing. (I remember a brilliant afternoon in Paris, buying The Next Big Thing, then seeing Hollywood Ending - a much-maligned film, never released in the UK - in a Left Bank fleapit.)

I've been reading Alex Sheremet's book and thinking again about Anita Brookner's 'phases'. Plainly Allen and Brookner are very different sorts of artists (though Allen's Another Woman, one of his Golden Age films, has Brooknerian tones and a Brooknerian heroine), but in two key aspects they're akin: they're both prolific, film-a-year/novel-a-year types, and they both continue or continued working into old age.

Woody's Golden Age runs, according to Sheremet, from 1977 (Annie Hall) to 1992 (Husbands and Wives). Brookner's is debatable, but it is the later period that interests me here. Sheremet dates the latest Woody Allen period from 2005 (Match Point) to the present as covered by his book (Magic in the Moonlight, 2014):
a string of lesser works ... self-borrowings with the occasional aside. Even so ... there are a few standouts that not only approximate the best of Woody Allen's Golden Age, but utterly re-forge them in parts as well...
I'm not sure if any of this is applicable to Brookner, but it helps me to understand in some measure the period from 2001 (The Bay of Angels). The year 2000 had been significant: it was the first year since 1981 that Brookner hadn't published a novel. The routine resumed, as I say, in 2001, but it was no longer consistently annual. The novels of the new century felt less homogeneous, less of a sequence. And they also returned to old themes, old plot-points, but from new and present-day perspectives. As my Woody Allen critic puts it: 'circles and asides'.

'Brooknerian': Gena Rowlands in Another Woman (1988)

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