Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's a Wonderful Life - Woody Allen's Early Years

There's probably no more overlooked figure in my knowledge of film than Woody Allen. He's always been on my radar; I saw Sleeper as a pre-teen and knew immediately that his was a sense of humor and a sensibility I could automatically appreciate. Annie Hall too. Maybe I thought that said too much about me, but this could be some Carly Simon psychobabble about overwraught, intellectual narcissicists.

So it was after seeing Manhattan that I completely fell in love with Allen as a filmmaker. I can think of few examples where someone can not only tell a beautiful story in such a self-contained, self-absorbed manner. And it's educational! Allen keeps no secrets about his influences and his films always point to cinematic history. His appreciation for Bergman in Manhattan is not only a metaphor but also a compliment.

In fact, it's to Allen's credit that he can so lightheartedly present audiences with film lectures while telling a story at the same time. It's good because there has to be some way for moviegoers who aren't neurotic, self-loathing Jewish New Yorkers to identify with his characters. Those caricatures are what people find funny - these reified distortions sometimes look like cartoons not people and not monsters - making it easier to come to grips with the story itself, which might be painful in ways that hit too close to home.

This has led me to buy Woody Allen Collection Vol. 1 and digest it immediately. For 49 bucks it seemed too good to pass up.


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