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Just A Minute With: Woody Allen on nostalgia, scandal

Woody Allen examines nostalgia among other topics in "Midnight in Paris," the latest in his string of films set in Europe.
/ Source: Reuters

Woody Allen examines nostalgia among other topics in "Midnight in Paris," the latest in his string of films set in Europe.

The movie transports its protagonist, played by Owen Wilson, back to the good old days of the Belle Epoque and 1920s Paris, and sees Allen concluding that, really, he would have been miserable during any age, golden or not.

Allen, 75, talked to Reuters about what he longs for, if he gets nostalgic about filming in New York and what he dislikes about technology and other modern pleasures.

Q. You still write your scripts on a typewriter?

A. "I don't own a word processor; I am not a gadget person."

Q. So have you escaped the likes of Twitter and Facebook?

A. "Twitter -- I have no idea what Twitter is. But Facebook I know, because I saw the movie and I liked the movie. So I know what Facebook is. And I have a website, which I have never seen in my life and have no idea how it works or what the point of it is, but people have done it for me."

Q. So how do you adapt to the world of iPods and iPads?

A. "I have a telephone, a cell phone, but all I can do on it is call out and receive calls. I don't have any other use, I have no, what do you call it, text number?

"You ever see old people and their television set has tape over a lot of the buttons so they can't make a mistake? So they can't access those buttons, they can only turn it on and turn it off? ... I am exactly that way, as long as there is two buttons to press, I can do it."

Q. As a former TV writer, what do you think about the state of TV these days, of reality TV, of Snooki on 'Jersey Shore?'

A. "I never see any of that. I see the names in the papers and things but I don't even know what that is. I do watch television but not that. I watch sports almost exclusively."

Q. Your latest film, "Midnight in Paris" examines nostalgia, what do you get nostalgic about?

A. "I do get nostalgic in a weak moment ... thinking back and thinking, 'Gee, it was great to be able to play stick ball in the street and go run into the house and take a shower and eat some unhealthy food' -- not having any idea it was unhealthy or caring even if I knew -- but I didn't. It was a simpler life. But then when I stop and think, really? Go back to that life, was it so nice? It wasn't. I hated school, I did terribly, I had all kinds of problems. It was pretty terrible."

Q. Have your thoughts on mortality changed recently?

A. "No, I was against it when I was five when I was first became conscious of it. I have remained adversarial. We are hard-wired by nature to resist dying, to be self-preserving, to take care of ourselves, to fight for our lives, so I am no different than anyone else in that way. I may differ in this sense, I may belong to that group of people where it is on our consciousness more frequently. But there is nothing we can do it about it, but we probably suffer more, because we are not able to block it out as easily. Everyone is provided with a denial mechanism, mine is faulty."

Q. Why do you get respected so much in Europe?

A. "I think I gain something in the translation ... I make a film and all over Europe, all over the world, they love it, because possibly they are not seeing my mistakes."

Q. Are you too much for the Middle American mentality?

A. "Yes, we are a very religious country, but to me that is their problem. I don't subscribe to it. I am not religious or prudish. In that way I am slightly more European, but you will find that a certain amount of that more in New York, I think, rather than the rest of the country. New York is the closest we have to a European city. As you get out in the country it doesn't become a very puritanical and very raised eyebrows, but you can't give in an inch to that because that way lies sterility and death."

Q. Still, critics like this film. Do you think America is ready to forgive you for your past scandals?

A: "What was the scandal? I fell in love with this girl, married her. We have been married for almost 15 years now.

"There was no scandal, but people refer to it all the time as a scandal and I kind of like that in way because when I go I would like to say I had one real juicy scandal in my life."

Q. Do you miss filming in Central Park in 'the fall'?

A. "No, I love new York. And I am sure I will come back and work here, the only two things that have kept me from here is when a foreign place has put up the money and insisted that I work there or I couldn't afford to work here."

Q. Will your next film in Italy be inspired by Fellini?

A. "No. Why Fellini? ... Why not Antonioni? No, it is not inspired by anybody. It is just a comedy, not a romantic comedy, but an out-and-out comedy."