You might get annoyed at a hypochondriac, a claustrophobic, or an egotistical neurotic whose security lies in the anonymity of New York, but how can anyone stay mad at a man who loves a clarinet?
"Wild Man Blues" is Barbara Kopple's delicious portrait of a neurotic in the grips of passion. Woody Allen is a man whose love of New Orleans jazz lures him to tour Europe, even though anything that makes him leave New York makes him literally sick.
Whining all the way, Allen, Soon Yi Previn, and his sister, Letty Aronson, fly by private jet to Paris, where he joins the rest of his band to bring American jazz to European cities. The whine disappears when something reaches him-the clarinet maker's shop, for instance, where he samples an apparently sublime instrument.
In Madrid, Bologna, Rome, Geneva, Venice, Milan, and London, his fans pack the narrow streets, happy to wait for hours just for a wave, certainly not a smile. Has Woody Allen ever smiled? The boy who grew up listening to Artie Shaw, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman plays riffs and rills all over the good old songs with his pals. In a power failure, a guaranteed upset for Allen, he leads the band on stage to play in the darkness. It is greatly appealing that this little guy with the big ego knows exactly who he is as a musician. He's in it for the joy of playing.
We watch the displaced New Yorker discussing at length the water pressure in the hotel shower. Taking notice of all the details, he stumbles about the palatial hotel suites, a wandering priss in enormous glasses, lost in the unfamiliar.
When he sees the medieval splendor of Bologna, his claustrophobia really kicks in. All those walls, all that darkness swallowing up the tiny man in the wrinkled clothes. The helping hand he needs comes frequently from Soon Yi, who is as obviously entitled as Allen is insecure. Her solution to all problems: "Call housekeeping."
At the press conferences, he's a deer in the headlights. In London, "If I'm not good, these people will hate me in their own language." He sustains a running, almost whispered commentary about all the things that upset him. He is in life exactly what he is in his movies.
Back home, in a wildly funny scene that reveals the source of Woody Allen, his mother and father never let up: "You did a lot of good things, but you never pursued them." "Don't think for a minute that you are what you are without help." His mother wanted him to marry a nice Jewish girl; his father still wants him to be a druggist-steady work.
"There's something about New Orleans jazz. It's like taking a bath in honey." If this man had never made a movie, much less one each year, playing his clarinet with this group would clearly have been enough. You might get annoyed at a hypochondriac, a claustrophobic, or an egotistical neurotic whose security lies in the anonymity of New York, but how can anyone stay mad at a man who loves a clarinet?
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Fine Line Pictures
Rating : PG
Running Time: 1h44m
Copyright (c) Illusion
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