We need more directors willing to take risks with films like Get Out.
Early in "Wild Man Blues,'' as they arrive in Europe, a subtitle identifies one of the women with Woody Allen as "Letty Aronson, Woody Allen's sister,'' and the other simply as "Soon-Yi Previn.'' One can only speculate how long a subtitle it would have taken to explain her presence.
"Theoretically, this should be fun for us,'' Allen observes at the start of a tour with his New Orleans jazz band. Theoretically, it should, but the greatest pleasure for Woody seems to be having his worst fears confirmed. An omelet in Spain seems "vulcanized.'' A gondola ride in Venice leads to seasickness. An audience in Rome is "anesthetized, like a jury.'' In Milan he worries that the hotel might bread their laundry.
"Wild Man Blues,'' Barbara Kopple's documentary about the tour, could be retitled "The Innocents Abroad''--although Woody, 60ish, not Soon-Yi, 25ish, is the innocent. What was I expecting from this scrutiny of Allen on tour with the adopted daughter of his former companion, Mia Farrow? Perhaps something slightly scandalous--the aging rake flaunting his young girlfriend in continental hot spots. But it's not like that at all.
Woody and Soon-Yi, who was soon to become his wife, seem to have a stable and workable relationship, in which Allen plays his usual role of the dubious neurotic, and Previn is calm and authoritative--a combination of wife, mother and manager. She seems to be good for him. Whether he is good for her has been a matter of controversy, but this film supports what Allen said when their affair was first revealed: "The heart has its reasons.'' Soon-Yi seems more like the adult in the partnership. At one point, she advises him to be more animated when he appears onstage with his band. "I'm not gonna bob my head or tap my feet,'' he says. "They want to see you bob a little,'' she says, and he gets defensive: "I'm appropriately animated for a human being in the context in which I appear.'' But at the next concert, he bobs a little.