When I saw Annie Hall for the first time it captured my imagination because it showcased so many refreshing characteristics that I never witnessed on film before. I knew I just stumbled across a master writer and director. I instantly wanted to indulge myself into Woody Allen’s filmography – that’s 40+ films my friends. Deciding to do a Freeze Frame on Woody was a challenge, but I did my best to learn as much as I could about the man with the trademark black glasses.
Allen’s film list is broad, offering slapstick comedies to intellectual pieces of work with thought-provoking themes that we can all relate to on some level because they are written with such honesty. I mainly want to focus on the themes of love and death, as they are explored deeply throughout Allen’s work.
More often in the world of movies, love is presented with simple complications, with simple solutions. When a man cheats on screen, it’s a foul act. This cheater is instantly the ultimate creep – especially with the ladies. You may as well hand him a cigar and give him a maniacal laugh. Allen tosses these boring and unrealistic representations of relationships away and really digs into subject of love with truth. In Hannah and Her Sisters, Eliot (Michael Caine), begins to have an affair with wife’s sister, Lee (Barbara Hersey). In typical film circumstances, Elliot and Lee would be portrayed as evil backstabbing bastards, but that’s not the case here. Instead, Allen provides an understanding to the deceitful act. Relationships are complex, because people are complex. People get bored of their partners and desire someone new who can simulate them, igniting that exciting spark they once felt. Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors focuses on the dark side of cheating. Both movies end with the male lead realizing his ultimate mistake, but instead of confessing to their sins, they kill off their secondary lover. Films like To Rome with Love, Whatever Works, Sleeper, all approach love with a lighter tone, but each film has something to say about romance through their diverse narratives. It’s quite a feet that one individual can say so much on this particular subject while keeping it fresh almost every time.
Death is another popular issue that often floats to the surface with a Woody Allen picture. This is something I can relate to as a viewer because death has come knocking at my door a few times throughout my life, and I refused to answer. It’s not that I’m unfriendly; I’ll always open my door for people, just not to death and Jehovah Witnesses.
I’m going to use Hannah and Her Sisters again because I found Micky’s (Woody Allen) arc to be hysterical. As a hypochondriac, Micky fears death and begins to explore various religions to find peace, but ultimately that strategy fails. I can relate to Micky. Being in and out of hospital my entire life (spent a few months sleeping on hospital beds – I bet dollar to donuts that prison beds are much comfier) I’ve witnessed people who think their flame is about to extinguish turn to God at the last second because they wanted to feel safe. Micky and I would have much to talk about. Allen often approaches death with his witty comedic style, which is a great mechanism for dealing with mortality. There’s a scene in Love and Death where Sonja (Diane Keaton) spots Boris (Woody Allen) outside, standing next to death. Allen says the line ”Oh, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m dead.” the imagery with the delivery of that line cracks me up every time.
Woody Allen: A Documentary is a fascinating insight into the world of the man who whips out a movie almost every year. Allen is humble. He doesn’t care for fame – hell, this is a man who didn’t collect his Oscar for Annie Hall because he preferred to play the clarinet at a club that same night. It’s clear that Woody is a born writer, but not a director (even though he is better than most directors living today). The night before directing his very first piece of footage, he was reading ‘’how to direct’’ at the edge of his bed. You also get to see him working with actors, and it’s clear it’s not his favorite thing in the world to do. When he comes to set, he doesn’t even know what scene he will be shooting that day. Woody let’s his actors, act, and if he wants something tweaked he’ll approach the talent with a ‘’that’s if you want to’’ attitude. Of course the stars will take the direction because it’s freaking Woody Allen you’re working with.
A part of me wonders what really drives Woody Allen. Why not give up filmmaking to spend the time left playing the clarinet at clubs? If I ever got the opportunity to meet the master writer (of course that will never happen) that’s a topic I would like to discuss with him. My guess is, writing and directing distracts him from age and death.
As long as Woody can keep pressing the keys on his German Olympia portable SM-3, I don’t we’ll ever stop seeing films from the man with the black thick glasses.