Woody Allen Year: What’s New Pussycat (1965)

by Jaime Grijalba.

Woody Allen: Writer and Actor.

Whatever happened to the comedies of yesteryear? I guess they were killed off by Woody Allen with this movie. Maybe they did continue for a while, as there are remnants in some of the movies that I’ll mention later as we advance in this brand new and inaugurated Woody Allen Year, but something as wild and outrageous as this wouldn’t come back with the same force and normalcy from the studios in a long long long time.

And my safest bet would be that this wasn’t the movie that Woody Allen wanted, and of course that the script was changed around while he was acting and making his own scenes and seeing how they butchered his work, but there are sequences that come out of nowhere, from the comedies and styles that are of the era that this movie comes from, and I can’t picture Woody Allen (not even a young one) writing those moments, as much as he then performed in them.

 And I’m specially talking about the final moments of this movie, but in a more general way of speaking, the second half of the movie that takes place in some “hidden in the woods” love hotel where our protagonist goes to meet practically all the other women that he has been involved with the rest of the time. There’s a very “classic” attitude in that movie that would only be repeated in another filmmaker who made comedies in the sixties and fixed himself in that particular modus operandi, Jerry Lewis.

The way in which all of the characters end up in the same place and a gimmicky and at the same time extremely simplistic way in which the plot unfolds is something unheard of when coming from someone like Woody Allen (who is still to this day the only one credited with the duty of screenwriting of this movie). It’s a plot device as old as the talkie comedies, almost too screwball, a genre that Woody Allen admired as a kid but never really managed to practice when he ever got into movies (except for this one).

Maybe he was testing the waters or just was surrendering under the powers of a feature length production, something he had never been into before. This is, without considering most of the work he did in television (most of which is totally unavailable through achievable simple ways), after all, the first movie in which Woody Allen ever participated in some way, shape or form, in a way here’s where he managed to get his first-hand experience with the work of film directing (without considering the classes he took on film production he took, that were completely taken without any real interest).

So, let’s go back to the second half of the movie, now that we know all the elements that take part of it, all the characters and situations in which they find themselves, there’s an almost too simplistic approach when Woody Allen decides to reunite them in this hotel, and not only that, for them to be persecuted by a mumbling bunch of policemen, who chase them only to then finish it all in something straight out of Wacky Races. Even Woody Allen indulges in that infantile humour when they arrive and board the mini karts to race around a track that has no end.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I hate the movie because of this elements, I just find them really strange for something scripted by Woody Allen, and here’s one of the first reasons as to why Woody Allen would later decide to only direct his own scripts and never let anyone else do it for him. But this on its own it’s not bad for what it is, for what it meant at the time as “another one of those crazy comedies in which a big ensemble cast finds itself running away from the police in cars” kind of deal.

The way in which the film was a mess to shoot and then to follow the original script is greatly divulged in the pages of the great book ‘Woody Allen: A Biography’ by Eric Lax, one of the most instructive books on the first moments of his life in showbusiness, from his writing of jokes for newspapers, going all the way through his stand up acts and then finishing with great detail on this movie. Then it moves to the rest of his career, but there’s no better book on this mostly unknown part about his life than that one.

Besides all that, this movie is not the best and is among the rare birds of the filmography of Woody Allen (along with many other acting appeareances that make no sense when you think about them), but it’s still worth seeing if just to see how Woody Allen already has his own persona and acting style established as the mumbling shy guy, this time with a girl that he’s not so sure if she loves him or not. It’s still a pretty minor role, but he does participate, as mentioned before, in most of the end sequences, as he was already a recogniced figure among those who knew and were fans of the Cavett Show.

The movie itself is a comedy, a farse, a comedy of error if you will, about a seductive man (not Woody Allen) who makes all the women around him fall in love with him, and of course, that leads him to a lot of trouble, specially with his own psychiatrist, played byPeter Sellers. If there ever was something this movie to be thanked (or damned) for is for the song that is named after the title, written and sung by Tom Jones himself, a wonder if you will, how you notice that a song has outlived the movie from which it was based on. How many times does that happen?

May this be the first sign of a great Woody Allen Year that this 2014 will be, let’s just hope that it doesn’t end with all the people running around scared and mounting on cars to run away from the responsability of reading the stuff I have to say, but anyway. Here’s to the movies of the master itself, Woody Allen!

Next: What’s Up Tiger Lily?

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