CULTURE

Woody Allen and the New Orleans Jazz Band whip up a New Year storm at the Badminton Theater

Diehard fans of Woody Allen are in for a treat. He is back in Greece, performing with the New Orleans Jazz Band at the Badminton Theater. The venue holds a large audience, offering many more of his devotees a chance to see Allen than on December 30, 2005, when he played at the Athens Concert Hall and there was a battle for tickets. Helbi was there, and as this column wrote then, the live contact with the performer, his casual student look and his thick-rimmed 1960s style glasses distracted us from his performance on the clarinet, which made him furious, he said. But he’s back and so is the New Orleans Jazz Band, led by Eddy Davis on banjo, with Conal Fowkes on bass and piano, Rob Garcia on drums, Cynthia Sayer on piano, Simon Wettenhall on trumpet, Jerry Zigmont on trombone and Woody himself on clarinet – his great love and possibly the only one to which he has remained true. Yesterday, December 28, was the first concert and there’ll be another today. Yesterday afternoon Allen received a few journalists, his publishers and just one camera in the Tudor room of the King George II Hotel. He has written and said so many funny, disarming things and he has written, played in and outdone himself in so many movies – he has made one a year since 1969 – that the biggest headache for a journalist is what to ask him that has not already been asked and answered, apart from questions about his tangled love life and his natural and adopted children, about which he will not permit questions. And, since he has his clarinet ready to hand, it’s better not to ask. A pure Sagittarius, he was born on December 1, 1935, to Martin and Nettie Konigsberg in Brooklyn, New York. They named him Allen Stewart Konigsberg, but he adopted the name Woody Allen, which suits him to a tee. In his films he often plays the part of a neurotic New Yorker. His character, whether a writer, director, producer or actor, is involved with beautiful women, who may be fragile or dynamic. He falls in love with them, winning them over in his own way before they even realize what’s happened. He is an inspiration to all those men who would like to be invincible lovers but change their minds after a glance at themselves in the mirror while they are shaving. In private life, Allen has been married three times and divorced twice. His third wife Soon-Yi Previn, is the adopted daughter of Allen’s former partner Mia Farrow, from when she was married to composer Andre Previn. Such a story might have ruined his reputation, but Allen managed to overcome it. He loves to use black and white titles in the opening scenes of his films, accompanying them with jazz music. Of all his films, his favorite is «The Purple Rose of Cairo,» made in 1985. In Greece the most popular of his films have been «Manhattan» (1979), «Hannah and Her Sisters» (1986), «Husbands and Wives» (1992) and «Shadows and Fog» (1992). Allen says that his relationship with the cinema started when he was just 3 years old. His mother took him to see «Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs» in 1937, and he has felt at home in theaters ever since. He was a solitary child; instead of playing in the street he would stay at home, playing his clarinet and doing card tricks. He admires Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, and has been nominated for 136 awards, more than Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd put together. He speaks French, is a vegetarian, and draws constantly on his Jewish background for his humor. He set most of his films in New York, though latterly he has made some in London. Allen is considered the most European of American directors. In December 2007 he organized a European tour with the New Orleans Jazz Band that would take in Brussels, Luxembourg, Vienna, Paris, Budapest, Athens, Lisbon, Barcelona and San Sebastian. «It’s my 72nd birthday present,» he said. While in Athens he intends to visit the Acropolis again to see the Parthenon. Allen said he considers himself very lucky to appear with the wonderful New Orleans Jazz Band, «who let me play clarinet with them.» Some of his sayings include: «It’s true I had lot of anxiety. I was afraid of the dark and suspicious of the light;» «Life is for the living;» «God made man in his own image. Do you really believe God has red hair and glasses?» Welcome, Woody, and your clarinet. All is forgiven a genius who resorts to music in order to forget the films that made him great. He never watches his own films.