I wish I was someone who still had the joys of Woody Allen ahead of them

To work through that catalogue afresh would be a sumptuous delight

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The Independent Online

I know that my friends and colleagues sometimes look at me as if I am a High Court judge, so tenuous is my grasp on certain aspects of popular culture. It's true that I've never seen Game of Thrones and I've not eaten at a McDonalds. I don't follow X Factor and I am not sure I'd be able to tell the difference between One Direction and Union J. I don't know Zac Ephron from Liam Hemsworth.

Nevertheless, despite the fact that there's such a lot of stuff around these days, and, as a person of a certain age, I don't have an intuitive understanding of what's happening when, and how to access it, I like to think that I do have a hinterland of both low and high culture. I assume, too, that people of an approximately similar vintage have the same cultural reference points.

So it comes as something of a shock when I discover this is not always the case. Today I had breakfast with the chief executive of a well-known British company, and I was telling her about my recent trip to New York. I'm afraid she had to endure the exercise that anyone who has come into contact with me recently would recognise. Out comes my mobile phone, and I proudly brandish the photograph I took of Woody Allen playing clarinet in the bar of my hotel.

Most people to whom I've shown this shot have roughly the same reaction. Wow! But not this highly-educated, high-achieving, cultured woman. Her reaction was rather surprising. Who's that? I thought she was either joking or short-sighted, but it turned out she was being completely serious. She'd heard of Woody Allen, but didn't know what he looked like (still less that he played in a jazz quartet every week) and - if you can believe it - hadn't seen one of his films.

My first emotion on hearing this was astonishment. How can anyone get to their adult years without seeing a Woody Allen film? It's not as if he's Terence Malik, for whom one film every decade is quite enough. Woody has been writing, directing or starring in (and sometimes all three) a movie just about every year for the past four decades or so. You've not seen Annie Hall? I thought there was no adult in the western world who hasn't seen it at least twice.

However, my astonishment then quickly gave way to envy. Talk about a pleasure held in abeyance! I wish that I was that person about to discover Woody Allen for the first time. Sure, we'd miss the highs, the lows, the ups, the downs, but that would be a small price to pay for seeing Bananas”through a fresh pair of eyes. Imagine being able to start, say, at Hannah and her Sisters and then work towards Love and Death and, finally, climatically, to the pinnacle of his achievement as a move-maker,  Manhattan. Eschewing chronology - and missing out almost every film since 1990 - it would be very easy to put together a playlist which reveals the greatest cinematic genius of our lifetimes.  I started working on it, and thought this was the best Christmas gift you could give anyone.