Woody Allen has offered so much to the world of cinema. Whether you like him or not, you have to give him his due. He is a hard worker and takes nothing for granted. Allen is probably his own harshest critic and, even as he nears 80, there is no sign of him slowing down. He is the master of not only comedy but cinema. Now, since I have been afforded the luxury, I present the directorial films of Mr. Woody Allen.
1969. Take the Money and Run
After the debacle of What’s New Pussycat?, artistically speaking, Woody Allen vowed he would never let anyone screw with his scripts again, like producer Charles Feldman did with Pussycat. Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe, his managers, were sent out with this mandate and eventually Allen was given the chance to direct, free from interference from money men or producers.
Take the Money and Run was the first and it chronicles the criminal exploits of the inept Virgil Starkwell. Shot in a pseudo-documentary style, Allen was, at first despondent over the quality of the film. Editor Ralph Rosenbaum showed him the mistakes he committed and helped Allen re-edit the film.
Although Allen dismisses many of his early films, Take the Money and Run is a very good film.
Mickey Rose, a high school friend of Allen’s, co-wrote Allen’s first two films with him before going on to write for Johnny Carson. In Bananas, Allen plays Fielding Melish, a bumbling New Yorker who gets dumped by his activist girlfriend and travels to a Latin American country. He gets involved in the country’s latest rebellion.
A brilliant look at the ridiculous obsession with Fidel Castro in this country that continues even today. Who knew Allen could dip into the political satire as well?
1972. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask)
This one consisted of a series of shorts loosely inspired by Dr. David Reuben’s book of the same title.
Everything.. has its moments and is well liked among historians and fans. It is just one I’ve never been totally sold on.
Miles Monroe, Allen, is a jazz musician and owner of a health food store. He is cryogenically frozen and defrosted 200 years later in an inept police state ruled by a dictator about to implement a secret plan known as the “Aries Project”. The rebels hope to use Miles to infiltrate the Aries Project, because he is the only member of this society without a known biometric identity.
Sleeper parodies the science fiction genre and throws in some Chaplin elements for Woody Allen to chew on. If you do not own this film, rectify that now. We’ll wait.
1975. Love and Death
Love and Death is a satire on Russian literature. Allen stars with Diane Keaton as Boris and Sonja, Russians living during the Napoleonic who engage in mock philosophical debates.
Allen considered it his funniest movie at the time. Another pseudo-historical farce by Allen. Very good, though I would hesitate to call it great.
1977. Annie Hall
Allen plays Alvy Singer, who tries to figure out the reasons for the failure of his relationship with the film’s eponymous female lead, played by Diane Keaton in a role written specifically for her.
Many elements of early drafts did not make it into what would become Annie Hall. Originally a drama centered on a murder mystery, with a romantic comic subplot, Allen and Brickman would recycle the murder mystery part and put it into Manhattan Murder Mystery, also with Diane Keaton. Sometimes, movies don’t live up to the hype placed on them. Annie Hall more than justifies its hype.
Interiors finds Woody Allen in an Ingmar Bergman state of mind. It is Allen’s first fully dramatic film and centers on three sisters, their ups and downs. Complicating their fragile states, the sisters’ father, Arthur, announces at breakfast one morning that he wants a separation from their mother and wants to live alone
A somber piece with no laughs to be had. Woody Allen shocked audiences with the dour piece. The problem with Allen’s dramatic pieces and this includes the very popular Match Point is they are not as sharp as his comedic films. Allen doesn’t have to be a comedian if he doesn’t want to but he has yet to hit the mark with the dramas.
1979. Manhattan (1979)
Gordon Willis – master. If the above still doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. Again, Marshall Brickman served as co-writer. The film finds Woody Allen playing Isaac Davis, a 42 year old comedy writer dating a 17 yr old girl. He eventually falls in love with the mistress, played by Diane Keaton, of his best friend.
A superbly shot masterpiece. From the acting to the camera work, this is what cinema is about.
1980. Stardust Memories
Sandy Bates is frustrated about being typecast as a comedy filmmaker. He recalls his life and his loves—the inspirations for his films—while attending a retrospective of his work.
Stardust Memories almost has a surreal aspect to it. Shot in black and white that gives it a more eschewed look, the characters are almost more Federico Fellini than Woody Allen. Gordon Willis, again, outdoes himself.