I watched ‘The Irrational Man’ on Netflix last night, for something to do and not knowing anything about the film, but as the credits rolled I saw that Woody Allen wrote and directed it.
I had the impulse then not to watch but made myself do so with particular attention to the script. It intrigued me.
A typical plot: an older eccentric and seemingly troubled professor of philosophy draws in the attraction and desire of a young bright student who in time breaks up with her loving boyfriend over her beloved professor.
The professor resists his student’s overtures at first, while simultaneously conducting an affair with an older married colleague who is also completely smitten with the professor and would run away with him in a heart beat.
This man is so much the object of desire, despite his appalling behaviour. He drinks whiskey from a hip flask regularly and is rude and abrupt with people.
He has a rugged look and what appears to be a scar on his lip – congenital perhaps – and a small pot belly – as if he’s given up caring about his appearance, while the women are both so perfect in their bodies and beauty, both the older women and the younger one.
Eventually the professor succumbs to his desire for his young student, succumbs and in the process decides to murder a judge whom he and his student believe is corrupt after they overhear a woman and friends in conversation about him.
It seems this judge is matey with the woman’s ex and is making it impossible for her to keep her children.
The professor is fired up by this story of unfairness and finds himself alive again, energised, no longer in the grip of the ennui that had engulfed him earlier, given his plot to kill the judge, unbeknown to any one, including the student.
The symbolism is obvious, as if the professor loses his capacity to ‘judge’ in face of his desire to right what he considers a wrong, notwithstanding his own wrongdoing.
I won’t go into how it all unfolds. To me the plot is somewhat implausible and high drama but I listened for the usual lines. One short sentence in particular jumps out when the professor takes the young student out for dinner and she says to: “I love how you order for me”.
I wanted to puke.
It’s all part of the seduction I suppose, part of the drama but thinking more about these things and I feel like Carly Findlay, who among other things writes about how disabled people are misrepresented in film.
I’m struck yet again by the way women are represented in films and the artist, in this case the genius professor, is seen as a flawed hero who begs for our understanding.
I wonder whether some of Woody Allen’s work is his attempt to make sense of his own troubled self.
Nothing wrong with that I suppose – I do the same in my writing, but there’s something about how the women fare in all of this that bothers me.
I resent women simply being portrayed as the adoring, somewhat innocent and more often than not extremely beautiful underdog to the tortured and flawed genius hero/man, who is looking for salvation – or a mother, with whom he can have a sexual union that reassures him he’s not getting too old and past it.
Enough of this rant, which seems to me to be connected to the MeToo# campaign, if only at a tangent.
Long may it live.