Woody Allen’s Melinda and Melinda (2004) was an experiment in narrative. The premise – spelled out in the film’s opening sequence – is that the same story can be told as either comedy or tragedy, depending on the point of view of the storyteller. We then see – intercut – two different versions of the same story, one comic, one tragic, about a neurotic woman (Radha Mitchell in both versions) whose arrival at a dinner party disrupts the lives of her friends. Underlying Allen’s formal experiment was the question of which vision of life – comic or tragic – more accurately reflects reality. The film was generally considered to be a failure, and was pointed to as irrefutable evidence of the director/writer’s “decline.”
Then, without announcing any intention to do so, Allen repeated the experiment – only this time, successfully – in two separate films, Match Point (2005 – above) and Scoop (2006).
Studies in Scarlett
Match Point and Scoop [SPOILER WARNING] are, respectively, tragic and comic versions of the same film story. Both films are about a young American woman who visits London – played in both films by Scarlett Johansson. In both films, she becomes romantically involved with a wealthy and attractive young Englishman. In both films, the young man turns out to be a murderer.
Apart from their complementary/contrasting views of life, both films are fundamentally concerned with luck and death. In Match Point, the visual correlative for the idea of luck is a tennis ball suspended in mid-air. In Scoop, it is a deck of tarot cards. In both films, someone sympathetic dies before the film’s end. In Scoop (the comic version), we actually get to see the mythical boat that carries souls into the land of the dead.
According to Allen’s interviews, Scoop would not have existed but for Ms. Johansson’s wish, spoken aloud during the Match Point shoot, that she could act opposite Woody in a film. He then, obligingly, whipped something up. If so, it’s one of the cleverest bits of narrative improvisation/embellishment since David Lynch figured out how to turn the TV pilot version of Mulholland Drive into a feature.
Per Amazon.com, Scoop will be released on DVD on November 21, 2006. We will then have the opportunity to screen both films back-to-back (as intended?), and some of us may even create our own intercut versions of the two films.
ADDENDUM 10/2 – Or maybe conceptual artist Douglas Gordon will create an installation where the two films are projected simultaneously on overlapping screens, strobed, at 12 frames per second . . . .