How has Noah Baumbach been influenced by Woody Allen (comparisons,) and how is he different in the way he carries out his themes and presents his filmmaking?

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Woody Allen was influenced by Bob Hope, Ingmar Bergman and the Marx Brothers.  Noah Baumbach was influenced by Francois Truffaut, Jean Luc Godard and Woody Allen, among others.  Whereas Allen’s influences are deliberately pervasive and obvious, however, Baumbachs are less so.  Baumbach’s most commercially successful film, “The Squid and the Whale,” pays nary a homage to Woody Allen, and his 2005 interview with Bomb magazine regarding that film makes no mention of Allen, but does reference the influences of Godard and Truffaut. [“Noah Baumbach,” Bomb, Fall 2005]  Baumbach is painfully aware of the similarities between his New York quasi-Jewish (his father is Jewish; his mother is Protestant) upbringing and Allen’s emphatically-Jewish New York upbringing. 

Baumbach acknowledges the comedic and intellectual influence of Woody Allen.  Rather than embrace those influences, though, he seeks to separate himself from them.  While Allen openly pays homage to his artistic influences, especially Bergman, Baumbach made a deliberate decision not to let his work be overly influenced by Allen:

"I was growing up in Brooklyn, and was actually going to Midwood High School — which I knew that Woody Allen had gone to as well — and I was just starting to write funny short stories. ... A teacher, I think, wrote a comment saying, 'This is like a Woody Allen short story,' and I had seen Woody Allen movies. . .[H]e was so much a part of my growing up, really. And I think at a certain point when I got a little older it was almost like a drug I had to kick. I had to get off Woody Allen; I was imitating him too much." [National Public Radio, May 14, 2013]

Artistic influences penetrate the subconscious and influence outcomes.  While “The Squid and the Whale” is far-removed from Allen’s work, “Greenberg” runs right smack into it.  There is no denying the influences of Woody Allen in the following exchange from “Greenberg”:

Florence: You like old things.

Roger: A shrink once said to me once that I have trouble living in the present, so I linger on the past because I felt like I never really lived it in the first place.

Allen’s onscreen persona, drawn from his life, is a nebbishy, Jewish intellectual whose life is spent in therapy.  The character of Roger Greenberg fits nicely into the Allen mold.  Similarly, in the following dialogue between Florence and Roger, played by Ben Stiller, a Jewish actor/persona of the Allen mold, the parallels continue:

Florence: I just out of a long relationship and I don’t want to go from just having sex to just having sex to just having sex.

Roger: Who’s the third ‘just having sex?’

Florence: You, if we had sex.

These exchanges could have appeared in a Woody Allen film, and the younger writer-director’s acknowledgement of the prevalence of Allen’s work in his home growing up makes the connection unbreakable.  Additionally, Baumbach’s 2012 film “Frances Ha” has been widely viewed through the prism of Allen’s work, particularly the use of black-and-white photography to depict New York City, and the dialogue that adapts Allen’s style for a courser age (something Allen himself did during the span of his career).  The character Benji declares at one point,

“I think it’s a great day.  I ate an egg bagel that Lev’s slut made me.  I internet-acquired three pairs of very rare Ray Bans.  I’m doing awesome.”

The influence of Allen on Baumbach is undeniable.  The latter’s efforts at distancing himself from the former only seem to link them closer together.

ggsgosg | Student

Actors of fully Jewish background: -Logan Lerman, Natalie Portman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Mila Kunis, Bar Refaeli, James Wolk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Julian Morris, Adam Brody, Esti Ginzburg, Kat Dennings, Gabriel Macht, Erin Heatherton, Odeya Rush, Anton Yelchin, Paul Rudd, Scott Mechlowicz, Lisa Kudrow, Lizzy Caplan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Gal Gadot, Debra Messing, Robert Kazinsky, Melanie Laurent, Shiri Appleby, Justin Bartha, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Margarita Levieva, Elizabeth Berkley, Halston Sage, Seth Gabel, Corey Stoll, Mia Kirshner, Alden Ehrenreich, Eric Balfour, Jason Isaacs, Jon Bernthal, William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy. Andrew Garfield is Jewish, too (though I don’t know if both of his parents are).

Actors with Jewish mothers and non-Jewish fathers -Jake Gyllenhaal, Dave Franco, James Franco, Scarlett Johansson, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Radcliffe, Alison Brie, Eva Green, Joaquin Phoenix, River Phoenix, Emmy Rossum, Rashida Jones, Jennifer Connelly, Sofia Black D’Elia, Nora Arnezeder, Goldie Hawn, Ginnifer Goodwin, Amanda Peet, Eric Dane, Jeremy Jordan, Joel Kinnaman, Ben Barnes, Patricia Arquette, Kyra Sedgwick, Dave Annable, Ryan Potter.

Actors with Jewish fathers and non-Jewish mothers, who themselves were either raised as Jews and/or identify as Jews: -Ezra Miller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Alexa Davalos, Nat Wolff, Nicola Peltz, James Maslow, Josh Bowman, Winona Ryder, Michael Douglas, Ben Foster, Jamie Lee Curtis, Nikki Reed, Zac Efron, Jonathan Keltz, Paul Newman. Oh, and Ansel Elgort’s father is Jewish, though I don’t know how Ansel was raised.

Actors with one Jewish-born parent and one parent who converted to Judaism -Dianna Agron, Sara Paxton (whose father converted, not her mother), Alicia Silverstone, Jamie-Lynn Sigler.

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