Sunday, December 18, 2005
Woody 4 ever
Woody Allen's Match Point is getting its London première tonight, but it's by pure coincidence that I've been indulging in a little Woody retrospective of my own, prompted by some of the comments below under Annie Hall. Webloge and I treated ourselves to The Purple Rose of Cairo, which, despite its slender running time, I'd actually never seen from beginning to end, and I found myself thoroughly charmed by the conceit, faintly regretful that this featherlight movie doesn't quite know where to take it, and bowled over by the self-deprecating comic gifts of Jeff Daniels. Next up was a wondrous double bill this afternoon at the Curzon Mayfair - Broadway Danny Rose, already a firm favourite of mine, followed by a revelatory re-viewing of Hannah and Her Sisters.
Man. I don't know how I'd never quite clocked this film's greatness before - goodness knows, it's not been for any want of passionate prompting from film fans near and dear to me. I can only plead having last seen it more than ten years ago, probably on TV, doubtless with loads of commercial breaks and maybe homework to do at the same time, or with my eyes half-closed, or whatever. But, on the big screen this time, the movie just blew me away, with its impeccable ensemble generosity, capacious emotional range, jewellery box of beautiful performances, and sheer, bittersweet love of life. I think Nick's right - the movie vaults straight up to the top, or very near it, of Allen's filmography for me now. (Consider it a late honorary addition to the top 100 I'm still trawling through, somewhere close to the still-glorious Annie Hall, with Husbands and Wives coming in third.) I also recommend to anyone the experience of watching Hannah right after the lovely and gracious, smaller-hewn, deceptively throwaway Danny Rose, if only because the two movies ultimately cleave to the same life philosophy - one built around "acceptance, forgiveness, and love" - so similarly and well. Nick's dead right to close his review with mention of Hannah's centrepiece lunch scene, a breathtaking example of writing, direction, performance and cinematography all working in perfect tandem to deepen the feeling of a movie and realign its emphases.
I'm not sure Hannah would be the film it is if Bergman's Fanny and Alexander hadn't come a few years before it - the Thanksgiving celebrations which bookend the Allen film owe an obvious, fond debt to Bergman's classic, which in general terms seems to have prompted Allen into a much more warmly embracing view of family than he's ever demonstrated before or since. As such it strikes me as Allen's most successfully Bergmanesque film, as well as certainly one of his most successfully Allenesque. Though I'm still nervous about Match Point, it's impossible not to cherish this filmmaker's readily available company, like a favourite pair of slippers or something, when he's on this kind of sterling form.