|1969||>>Take the Money and Run||.../...|
|1972||Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex||6.5/10|
|1975||Love and Death||7/10|
|1982||A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy||5.5/10|
|1984||Broadway Danny Rose||6.5/10|
|1985||The Purple Rose of Cairo||6.5/10|
|1986||Hannah and Her Sisters||7.5/10|
|1989||Crimes and Misdemeanors||8/10|
|1991||Shadows and Fog||7/10|
|1992||Husbands and Wives||7.5/10|
|1993||Manhattan Murder Mystery||7/10|
|1994||>>Don't Drink the Water||.../...|
|1994||Bullets over Broadway||6.5/10|
|1996||>>Everyone Says I Love You||.../...|
|1999||Sweet and Lowdown||4.5/10|
|2000||Small Time Crooks||5.5/10|
|2001||>>The Curse of the Jade Scorpion||.../...|
|2004||Melinda and Melinda||5.5/10|
|2008||Vicki Cristina Barcelona||6.5/10|
|2010||>>You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger||.../...|
|2011||Midnight in Paris||4.5/10|
|2012||>>To Rome with Love||.../...|
|2014||Magic in the Moonlight||5/10|
|2016||Crisis in Six Scenes||6.5/10|
Review last updated: November 6, 2019
"Tanner, did you really watch all of these Woody Allen movies?" Yes, I really did. Most of them more than once.
I've decided that Woody Allen was both, at different phases in his career, an idiot and a genius. He is currently my favorite director. He was a cheap, Three Stooges-like physical comedian, obsessed with sex, who matured into the college-senior-intellectual romantic depressive. His dialogue is often unrealistic and elevated, with the characters beaming long flowery lines, loaded with references to academia and other films. His work is transparent - that is to say, it's very easy to watch a Woody Allen film and see his thought process, his messages, and you get the image a single neurotic, short, Jewish man sitting at his typewriter, rather than seeing the events or the characters. Many of his films are deeply narcissistic, while others are tremendously empathic. It sounds like an odd way of describing my favorite director, but Woody Allen's work is timeless and artful. If you want to feel warm, sentimental, romantic, but also morbid and uncertain (but okay with being uncertain), there's a film by Woody Allen to suit your perspectives of the evening.
Any Woody Allen film before Love and Death is bound to be pretty awful. Except for maybe Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, these early films are atrociously immature, and hardly watchable. And this is coming from a moviegoer that worships the ground he's walked on. They have the romantic sensibilities of a high-schooler making dick jokes. Somehow, most of these early ones are praised to the skies by film critics and review aggregators. I find it difficult to sit through anything of his before 1975.
Annie Hall was my first Woody Allen film, and it's also most people's. This was the first film of his to really stick with people, a film where he learned how to be vulnerable. Allen recognized that if he were to apply his real-life experience to tell the story of his real-life relationship with actress Diane Keaton, he could be honest with his audience. This marked the beginning of his artistic maturity, and it also instilled his name and screen persona in the American household.
Interiors is a stroke of genius. Made only one year after Annie Hall and one year before Manhattan, this was Woody Allen's first drama. It was also the first film he made that he himself did not star in. Interiors tells the story (with perfect symbolism, imagery, and family-dynamic parallels) of a family's implosion. It details the breakdown of successful interior decorator Eve, a woman whose world was her aesthetics, and whose family lived in this world as if they were pieces of furniture or sculptures. "There was no room for any real feelings." This film also profiles the three daughters as struggling artists, whose creations only widen the gap they were created to fill. It is revealed at this point in Allen's career that the pursuit of art and creation are very important themes in his films - many of his works are about a novelist, or a film director, or a comedian, or TV producer. Someone struggling to send a message to the world.
Manhattan is my favorite film. I sincerely believe the entire medium of film, is incapable of offering me a film that is as meaningful, or as entertaining, or as compelling as Manhattan. This is a film about you, and your relationships, and your subconscious, and the deepest fear looming over the head of every conscious man. This is a film about two relationships, ever changing as if in cycles - lovers who are consistently unsure of each other and themselves. As this film's plot unfolds, the visuals of the shots, the spacial geometry, the lighting and sets, and the movements of each scene, symbolize the events happening on the screen. It is difficult to describe this unique kind of synesthesia through words, but if you watch this film, and pay attention to how the scenes are photographed, it will strike you.
When this film begins, 42-year-old Issac Davis (Allen), an aspiring novelist who works as a TV producer, is dating 17-year-old high schooler Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Married college professor Yale (Michael Murphy) is having an affair with neurotic journalist Mary Wilkie (Keaton). This film symbolizes the indecisiveness and futility of relationships in wealthy, affluent societies. As Issac grows bored of Tracy, and falls in love with Mary, Yale breaks up with her. Issac breaks up with Tracy in a heartbreaking scene. The relationship between Issac Davis and Mary is short-lived. This tale is told through stunning, geometrical, black and white photography.
But the most prominent message of Manhattan, and the reason why it's one of the most important films ever (or at least of the 20th century), is that everyone is looking for love, but no one really knows what they want. These relationships, romances, neuroses, illnesses, and phenomena, even the pursuit of art and creation, are merely self-inflicted distractions, defense mechanisms, things we've designed to keep us from acknowledging or thinking about the great unknowable nothingness of death. Human life in this uncaring, indifferent universe, is full of unanswerable questions, deep looming crippling fears, existential panic, and societal alienation. Love and relationships are a game we've created to distance ourselves from this fear, it's a trick we've played on ourselves. I used to look at Manhattan as an answer for many questions in life, now I see it how it is. A neurotic romantic comedy, a deeply flawed, hopelessly realistic, and pathologically indecisive love story. I feel sorry for those who don't enjoy it as much as I do. I wouldn't even say this is an important film, or even an essential film, it's just my favorite. I happen to like this more than any other.
"That was the most horrifying thing I've ever seen." "Too much reality is not what the people want." "What self-indulgence!" "Sandy, we'll sue them if they touch one frame of your film." "I promise you, you won't win."
Woody Allen pays homage to many influential films from Europe. Interiors is known for looking and feeling like an Ingmar Bergman film - notice the rolling beach shots, the baroque lighting. Stardust Memories explicitly references the Fellini film 8 ½ in its opening scene (in which Woody Allen is stuck on a train full of sad people). I believe this film to be among the greatest of all time, as it shows the loneliness and Kafkaesque alienation of rich celebrities. It portrays every step of the artistic process, as if it were scientific, always testing for a creative hypothesis, analyzing the "results" or reactions. But unlike science, the artistic process is pure vanity - nothing is accomplished. Each film that the character Sandy Bates finishes, only serves to alienate him from his audience even more. This film has a self-awareness that is a tunnel: much like an image that appears in a mirror within a mirror, Stardust Memories references itself referencing itself. It is the ultimate meta-film, the film about itself: hollow and self-indulgent by design. Narcissistic, indulgent, hopeless, pretentious, somehow lovable and kind, even with the feeling of being talked down to.
I also think this is the funniest Woody Allen, as it indulges itself in a kind of cynical, hostile, even rage-filled comedic style. And yet, as Stardust Memories creates a comedy that grows more and more absurd and indulgent by the second, at the same time, it further explores his fear of death and search for meaning in the empty universe.
"You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes."
Crimes and Misdemeanors
Crimes and Misdemeanors is the true highlight of Allen's career. A genuine, morbid, compelling story of murder and lost love. If you absolutely hate Woody Allen, and think his films are dog shit, and everything about him is pointless and self-indulgent, you should watch Crimes and Misdemeanors. This film explores a deeply troubling moral relativism, a question of how much a human life really matters, and if the consequences of taking a life are destined or purely circumstantial. It's the fatal, nihilistic psychology of "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it...".
TANNER THIS IS NOT OKAY. But, But, But, Woody Allen is a pedophile/child rapist/murderer/psychopath/white supremacist. He murdered his daughter and married her corpse and fed it to dogs. And you LIKE Manhattan?? Annie Hall??? Juliette Lewis was HOW OLD in Husbands and Wives??