Woody Allen comes to life at the Odeon

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The Independent Online
WAS IT art imitating life or life imitating art? Or are both propositions contempt of court?

Last night at the Odeon cinema in Leicester Square, central London, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow announced before a packed house that they were splitting up. He had been seduced by a 20- year-old student. Or rather, two characters played by Allen and Farrow in his latest film did so.

It was the first screening in Britain, for film critics and special guests, of the new Allen film Husbands and Wives. The male lead, who was also writer and director, modestly cancelled all publicity appearances because it would have meant appearing with the female lead. But as one executive of Tri Star, the distributors, said: 'He doesn't need to do publicity for Husbands and Wives. People will go along to see if they can detect any bad feeling between him and Mia on screen.'

In Italy, you might have to be a linguist as well as a psychologist to do that. The man who dubs many of Allen's films into Italian threatened to refuse to work on it because of the uproar over Allen's relationship with Farrow's adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, also a student, but 21 not 20, so any resemblance between characters in the film and any persons living or dead is purely coincidental. And so, for amateur psychologists, legal affairs followers and affairs (general) followers who cannot wait until the official opening in Britain next month, here is the nub.

The film is typically Allen, a funny and touching view of Manhattan marriages and divorces and the belated insights the characters all gain into their lives. At one point, the student is accompanied by an older man to a basketball game, an Allen mating ritual. But too many comparisons with real life can be surreal, not least when the Allen character talks of an affair with a woman called Harriet Harman.

Allen loses both the girl and his wife and confesses to have been 'sleepwalking into a mess'. Sad. But real life is sadder.