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.

3 comments:

Nick Davis said...

Woody 4 ever indeed!

You are so kind to me I it almost embarrasses me, in a good way. Meanwhile, I have never seen Broadway Danny Rose, so I'll have to fast-track that one, and I had never seen Fanny and Alexander until this year, so the comparisons to Hannah would never have occurred to me—though of course you are absolutely, wonderfully right.

Like everyone, I am always nervously hopeful with each new Allen, and usually quite disappointed, but when he's got such a stable of classics that will never go away, surely that's enough. (I'd list my faves after Hannah, but I'd ruin my countdown!)

tim r said...

I've been rooting around your other Allen reviews too - Another Woman is now on my amazon wishlist, and I may pick up Interiors too if I like that. It just depresses me so much that my period of active moviegoing has basically coincided with all the bad ones! I'd love to have had the excitement of following his career in the 70s and 80s... Ah well.

NATHANIEL R said...

my 1st woody was BROADWAY DANNY ROSE which i thought was funny but not much else at that young age.

the second was PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO and i really do credit it as being a major turning point in my life as a filmgoer. My whole family hated it and i was like blinking with total confusion afterwards --total blissful confusion. It's the first time I remember leaving a movie theater being absolutely sure I had just seen something masterful and elevating and wondrous --and then my family just ripped it to shreds.

needless to say i have better taste than they do ;)

Hannah and her sisters the following year. Same feeling afterwards and same reaction from at least one of the people i went with.

needless to say i have better taste than he does ;)