Trust but verify

Woody Allen and Pedro AlmodovarBY TONY BOUZA

Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar are, to me, cinema’s biggest stars.  Woody perplexed me with his personal life and forced me to consider the artist and the man—did the latter’s behavior affect the artistic standing?  Ultimately he led me to conclude the artist is a prophet, and his/her work has to be weighed on its own independent worth.  A surprisingly tough answer to arrive at, for me.
I’ve just seen Mr. Allen’s latest, “Magic in the Moonlight,” perhaps the worst of his efforts.  It lags, stumbles and loses focus.  The female lead can act but was miscast badly.  Allen forgot himself—she ain’t hot.  Scarlet Johansson comes to mind.
Still, withal, the flick is worth seeing for the author’s take on faith versus reason.  Apropos, yet aside, the New York Times actually ran a column on the value and wonder of Tarot card reading in the Aug. 24 issue in its weekly news review.  So much for science, analysis, research, study and such irrelevancies.  I digress.
The movie centers on a profound skeptic who insists on evidence over faith.  He is asked to debunk a mystic and happily agrees.
The hero proceeds to evaluate the seer and concludes he was wrong to be skeptical.  Faith in the unknown and unseen do have places in our lives.
Or do they?
The hero apologizes for his agnosticism and, in a second scene that reinforces his new status of believer, prays.
Thus does Mr. Allen bait his clever trap.
As it develops, the skeptic was right all along—the mystic was a fraud and the hero unmasked her.  The prayer caused him to recoil from his lapse.
Science, evidence, reason, analysis and research triumphed.
We live in an age when innocents are beheaded in the name of unseen, unprovable yet deeply felt fanatical beliefs.  Charlatans, exploiters, madmen rule the day over much of the world, invariably in the name of some undemonstrable idea.
In another pivotal scene a host receives reassuring, but palpably false, answers in a seance.  She lives in a fool’s paradise.
Such gullability—albeit not as innocent—attended our Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism (Woody Allen made a dandy film on this topic), denial of evolution and attacks on global warming, to list only a few.
Faith has consequences.
Skepticism demands proof.
Life is hard but it doesn’t have to be quite the mystery so many of us make it.
God Bless!

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