When first given this assignment, this interview, I had been on a long fast. Like David Rakoff, I'd starved myself for years of Woody Allen's works, hoping to reach a fictional Nirvana of acceptance and peace. Also like Rakoff, I'd said to myself, "How come all the other kids are enlightened and I'm not."
I'm nearly 100 years into my second life cycle. Every few months, I go in for vein calibration and artery maintenance; my skin has been rejuvenated many times, and my memory has been upgraded enough to recall the smallest detail. Except I don't recall anymore what I saw in Woody Allen. I no longer remember why he was important to me.
True, I once had a dog named after a dog in one of his films. And I lived, for a time, in a city he romanticized. (Not that one. And no, not that one either. The other one, which sank in 2089.) But why I once loved his films and short stories and stand-up routines, I can't remember.
"I need three columns," my editor told me upon assigning me the interview. So these are those three columns. This is the last one.
There's an old joke. Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, "Boy, I wish I could remember why I liked reading Nancy Drew." And the other one says, "It is a mystery."
Allen and I talk for a while. The hour grows late, and the light grows dim. The sirens outside signal the end of Safe Egress, so I know it is time to leave. He stands, as do I.
"One more question." I say this as I take one more glance around the room, which has shifted into a night sanctuary for Mr. Allen. The rubber plants have gone away. The real plants have turned away from the walls to peer inward, toward the couch. The couch, oddly, has become a bed.
"Okay." Allen pauses mid-gesture, his hand extended for a final handshake. His hand remains in mid-air, extended but not touching.
"So. Your films were--and are--all about relationships and connection, and you did--and still do--write for women in a way that's rare for men. You have empathy in your work. So why, then, do you seem so indifferent in your life? When your daughter wrote about her experience, why were you so dismissive? If it had been a plot-line in one of your films--"
"It wasn't a film. Movies are where you get to be god. I write and direct because I don't believe in God. If I were God in my life, I'd be a better person."
"But, don't you see? You're letting yourself off the hook." The assistant appears again, holding a hat and coat I hadn't given him. "You can't be moral in your work if you're not moral in your life. I mean, you can be moral in your work, but you have to at least admit your immorality in your life. You rationalize everything. You write about how awful it is for a man to cheat on his wife, or beat his wife, then you have an affair with your long-time girlfriend's adoptive daughter."
"The heart wants what it wants." He adjusts his glasses. The breathing facilitator falls from his nose.
"The heart may, but the brain is in charge."
"I'm not God."
This is why it's best to have dead idols. They can't continue justifying themselves.
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