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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Woody Allen’s Secular Humanist Heaven

“Melinda and Melinda” is the nothingness of Manhattan

Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Melinda and Melinda,” features his quirky sense of humor.  More explicitly than his other movies, however, it confesses the sad emptiness of life lived by the secular humanist guidelines of the New York Times editorial board: freedom is just meaningless and unsatisfying hedonism.

The movie’s characters admittedly are caricatures of the Manhattan intellectual fast lane, but nonetheless representative of the pitiful emptiness of life as literally lost souls.  They speak pretentiously and superficially of philosophical concepts, but all that comes through is glibness.  Apart from the background music of Duke Ellington’s great early-1940s band featuring Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, there’s nothing of solid substance beyond the fast-cut clips of Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s-area, upper East Side brownstones.

The characters, both the four narrators who set the background, and the people in the two variations of the Melinda story, are paper-thin personalities.  Predictably we witness the unfolding of all the usual themes of “Sex in the City”: self-absorption, marital infidelity, self-doubt, drugs, alcoholism, sex as the only means of personal fulfillment, and a focus on the “arts.” 

Wallace Shawn, as one of the narrators, sums up the Manhattan view of the good life.  There is no meaning to anything.  Life is short, and there’s nothing afterwards.  The only reality is what you can touch and feel.

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