Try Again Woody

PLAY IT AGAIN SAM, Directed by Herbert Ross. Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Jerry Lacy. Certificate AA. Released by Paramount Pictures.

It’s not good for any movie star to be likened to another, so it’s invidious to say that Woody Allen is the new Groucho Marx, or even Buster Keaton. But whether it’s fair to call him that or not, that’s exactly what he is.

Just as Peter Sellers showed promise of being a comic talent some years ago, before his ability was squandered in the search for a few dollars more to buy another mini, Woody Allen now looks set firmly on course for being the best comedy actor we’ve had for years. And to cap it all he writes most of his own material.

Until recently (in fact until Bananas) he never put a foot wrong as far as I’m concerned.

So it’s with some regret that I have to admit that I didn’t exactly die laughing at Woody clowning his way through Play It Again, Sam, Herbert Ross’ movie from Woody’s screenplay based on his own stage play.

Perhaps it’s because this movie is based on a stage play that it doesn’t work as well as Bananas or Take The Money and Run. Or perhaps it’s because it’s directed by someone other than Woody Allen himself — he directed the others and has just finished Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex etc.

Whatever the reason, this movie just doesn’t hang together as well as most of Woody Allen’s humour.

Basically, his usual maladroit everyman figure is surrounded by disasters, as usual — but this time they’re romantic disasters mostly.

True, there are moments when the usual brilliant visual humour shows through, but, generally speaking, those good patches stick out. And that’s a bad sign for any movie. If the good bits are conspicuous, then the rest can’t be up to scratch.

I love Woody Allen. He is me. He is a human disaster area. He is the victim of gadgets and 20th Century technological hardware. His hairdryer causes havoc in his medicine cupboard as he hurries to meet a girl.

The story is this: Woody is a movie-critic on a rather esoteric movie-mag. His wife walks out because he’s more hung-up about celluloid than sex. So he has to go out hunting for a new mate. He’s helped in this by Humphrey Bogart (Jerry Lacy) and his best friend’s wife (Diane Keaton).

The Bogart figure is the product of Woody’s movie-mad imagination. Bogie follows him on his dates and tells him what to do, for Woody is, as ever, completely flustered when faced with the realities of a situation.

Every date fixed for him by his best friends (and that wife of his) turns out to be a shambles, because Woody just can’t pull the birds any more. Not even a roaring nymphomaniac — a crazy cameo played by Viva (from the Warhol factory).

Meanwhile as rebuff after rebuff erodes our hero’s self-confidence. Woody discovers the only woman he feels comfortable with is his best friend’s wife. They have sex.

She tells her husband their marriage is on the rocks and he goes off on yet another of his business trips. Realising that she should be with her husband she rushes off to join him at the airport.

Meanwhile Woody turns up at the airport, but he won’t keep her from her husband because that’s not the way it happened in Casablanca — and sure enough, there’s Bogie at his elbow, mighty proud of him, and that’s the way he’s learned to treat dames.

Romantic comedies aren’t exactly my elegant glass of Babycham. But this one’s different. It has to be with Woody Allen involved. Who else could give the woman he loves a plastic skunk for her birthday or say as she walks out of his life that that’s the scene he’s been wanting to play all his life – or, at least, since he first saw Casablanca.

Trouble is the movie’s produced by Arthur (Planet of the Apes) Jacobs and much of his influence seems to have spread throughout the movie. The intercutting of real Bogart footage is overly heavy and unnecessary. But Woody wins out in the end. There’s a scene where he’s elated and walks

along a bridge patting the backs of the boys fishing. One of course, falls off the parapet. Woody, of course, notices nothing.

It’s fun, but it’s not the best of Woody Allen. All the same it’s better than no Woody Allen. And that’s enough to get me into the cinema – even at 10.30 a.m.

Undergrinspoon Movies

While the lovely JD Grinspoon is just collecting her things together for her nightly troll down Wilton Road, I just thought I’d pop in and tell you all of the wonderful gay movies they’ve been showing in London.

The ICA is a haven for us gays with weekend doubles of Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys (1968), My Hustler (1965) and Chelsea Girls (1966) showing regularly along with Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising (1964), the gay movie that started all the gay movies.

With the exception of some commercially financed and marketed ‘gay’ movies, such as The Boys in The Band, I Want What I Want, Fortune and Men’s Eyes, Some of My Best Friends Are… no gay movie has been given a reasonable circuit showing (ie nationwide) by Rank Voyeur Services or Electricity Means Income Theatres – with the possible exception of The Killing of Sister George – which was a cop-out in every way, I feel.

Warhol’s delicious Flesh (1968) was given a reasonable length screening at the Essoldo, Chelsea, but now the Essoldo group has disappeared into the Classic group, a group that’s learned that there’s gold in them thar safe programmes and bingo halls, when they’re not busy turning perfectly good cinemas into Tatler wank clubs.

Trash (1969) has still not been given a proper public showing in Britain. Stephen Murphy, the secretary of the British Board of Film Censors, and Jimmy Vaughan, the movie’s renter in Britain are still haggling over the cuts that should or shouldn’t be made. None should. Not that Trash is a specifically gay movie, but its star, Joe Dallesandro (see This Months Rent) is enough to keep this boy’s eyes glued firmly to the screen.

What happens with these beautifully made movies is that they say too much for people like Murphy, who’s besieged on one side by liberals and on the other by “responsible Christian gentlefolk”.

Flesh sat on the censor’s shelves for a couple of years before it was finally given an X-certificate. It deals with Joe, who has to go out and hustle on 42nd Street to earn money to buy his girlfriend’s girlfriend an abortion.

Trash has been sitting around since last year when it was given a limited showing at the London Film Festival. As all showings then were booked solid within a few days of the announcement, very few people ever got to see it.

What’s put the shits up Stephen Murphy isn’t a scene where Joe, a trash-picker from the very worst of Greenwich Village in New York, fixes with heroin — a horrifying scene which made my boyfriend pass out at the time – but a scene where Holly Woodlawn, a drag queen, jerks off with the aid of a beer bottle because Joe’s incapable of anything approaching sex, he’s too full of junk!

This was the scene which provoked the usually staid, prim and generally harmless Margaret Hinxman, the alleged movie-critic of the Sunday Telegraph to exclaim: “I think it’s disgusting, and it should be banned. What I thought was really horrible was the bit where the girl masturbates with the beer bottle.”

Holly Woodlawn is a drag queen.

Chelsea Girls, which has been running at the ICA Club for rather longer than this reporter cares to remember is a very lengthy (210 minutes) and alternately boring and screamingly funny piece of Andy Warhol’s dissection of Amerika.

Flesh and Trash were made under the banner of the Warhol workshop and directed by Paul Morrisey, who’s brought big-pic production values to the workshop. His movies are “better-made” than Warhol’s own but no less interesting.

Chelsea Girls, My Hustler and Lonesome Cowboy all predate the arrival of Morrissey at the Warhol workshop. The movies are bittier, not so technically well-made, but often funnier.

As I’ve said, Chelsea Girls was for me, largely a bore. I found I started watching the screen with the soundtrack and then drifting off onto the silent screen alongside it. Often the dialogue on one screen doubles for both. In places then, it was funny. But, I would add that 75 per cent of the audience left by halftime.

My Hustler was very disappointing. I’d wanted to see this movie about hustlers on Fire Island, starring Paul America, for years. When I saw it, it looked like two reels rescued from the centre of a home-movie. Paul America is almost enough to make up for the disappointment.

Lonesome Cowboys comes last because it’s the funniest movie ever made perhaps. Obviously the entire cast and crew were stoned out of their heads when they shot this — everyone’s having so much fun. So many lines were fluffed, so much is ad-libbed. More than anything else it’s got a nice gay story-line. This group of cowboys ride into town, and they’re immediately picked up by the local equivalent of Barbara Stanwyck — Viva and her pimp, Taylor Mead.

Needless to say the cowboys are fucking each other from one end of the range to the other. So they tell anyone they meet they’re brothers, to try and create a good impression.

Their usual group sex activities are interrupted somewhat by Viva trying to get off with each of them in turn. The result is hilarious. Boys to watch are Joe Dallesandro and Tom Hompertz and anyone else that takes your fancy.

That brings us to Kenneth Anger — who GN will interview as soon as possible.

Anger was making movies at the age of 16. They’re still not certificated although his Scorpio Rising is the untimate in motorbike/S&M flix which uses intercut pieces of movie footage of Brando and Jesus to make the neo-Nazi cult thing not just frightening but funny.

MESSAGE TO ALL OUT OF LONDON GAYS: These movies are only on display at the ICA because the place has found a loophole in the censorship law. As a non-profit-making charity it may show uncertificated movies for two days or less without harassment.

If you can’t work the same fiddle in your area, join a film society and demand that they’re shown, the BFI, the film society’s fairy godmother will back you to the hilt. These are the movies film societies should show. Not middle of the road, harmless pap like Elvira Madigan.

Peter Holmes

Forthcoming Attractions

At the time that GN9 went to press Censor Murphy and Trash’s distributor in Britain were still deadlocked over what — if any — cuts should be made from the movie before Murphy will grant it an X-certificate.

Inside sources at the censors’ board tell GN that it’s not the drug sequences that are worrying Mr Murphy – for instance, a full-frontal heroin-fix – but the sex-deviance angle that emerges most when Holly Woodlawn masturbates with the beer bottle.

Had this latest in the series of deadlocks not happened the Classic group had planned to open Trash at the Classic Curzon, Chelsea, some time in late September.

Before Gay News was even a newspaper, a German movie-maker called Rosa von Praunheim asked the GN collective if it would distribute (in the UK) his movie called It Is Not The Homosexual Who Is Perverse, But The Situation In Which He Lives.

It Is Not The Homosexual etc is to get its first London showing at last — at the National Film Theatre, which means it’s a members-only do. It shows on Wednesday October 25 and Thursday October 26. After each showing there will be a discussion about the movie, in which people in the audience can take part. People invited to take part in the discussions include the director, Derek Malcolm, George Melly, the Campaign for Homosexual Equality, the Gay Liberation Front and Gay News.