A Focus on… Early Woody Allen – Un Certain Regard
I know, I know what you’re going to say : why on earth is a guy like Woody Allen featured in a column of art-house and underrated cinema ? Well, this is a kind of exception. And today I actually won’t talk about Allen’s “European” films, that is the ones from after the 2000s, set in London, Barcelona, Paris or Rome and that everybody knows. What I will be tackling however are his earlier films, that have been somewhat – for some of them – forgotten along the way. It should be said as well that he makes so much films: around one a year ! How do you want to keep up with such an intense production ? I have set myself a goal of watching every single one of his films and even if I do have seen a fair amount of them now, I’m still far from achieving my goal. So let’s have a look at Woody’s “older” films and remember some of his greatest and funniest ones !
Annie Hall (1977)
Annie Hall is without any doubt one of the most famous films of Woody Allen. It won 4 Oscars in total and is still considered one of his best motion pictures ever. It is, as many of his films, a comedy (although it does have a certain seriousness in it) starring Diane Keaton and himself and which deals with an intense love story that the two protagonist share – the neurotic, death-obsessed Alvy and the cheeky Annie – before the relationship suffers from their respective professional lives. It is a great film about love, its meaning and the way people lead their lives, as well as existence and death: that is to say, themes that anyone can relate to and that is partly why it is a must-see.
Ah, Manhattan… If you haven’t seen this one yet, I urge you to do so ! It is no surprise that Woody Allen is head over heels in love with this city, especially its most famous neighbourhood and shows it better than ever in this film. It is a real ode to the city, which is shown in its best light. The plot is about an anxious and disillusioned (yes again, seems like Allen’s favourite characters !) TV scriptwriter who struggles with his love life, between his ex-wife who has left him for a woman, his new relationship with a 17-year-old girl and his best friend’s mistress whom he quickly falls in love with. Absolutely chaotic but brilliant !
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) (1972)
I feel like this one is probably one of Allen’s most wtf films; and that’s why it is so hilarious ! It does not follow a classical pattern and is not about a single main plot, but is divided into seven little scenes, all dealing with – as you may guess – sex. Each vignette tackles a sexuality-related topic : be it aphrodisiacs, sodomy (yep, you read it right), orgasm, transvestites, sex perverts, breasts, and ejaculation. The latter is probably the funniest one; it shows spermatozoon getting ready for the final call, with Woody Allen being one of them and who doesn’t want to go because he is scared of what’s waiting for him outside. Not to be missed !
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
Manhattan Murder Mystery has been made a bit later than the aforementioned films, but I had to include it in this list because it is really funny and entertaining. About a couple (again), Carol and Larry living in Manhattan (again), they live in a fancy flat of the island and meet their neighbours, except that the woman of the couple they encounter dies the very next day. Carol starts her own inquiry as she is convinced it was in fact a murder, and is determined to find out the truth by all means. Larry however doesn’t share this opinion at all and would rather stay outside of the whole story and continue to live peacefully. All the twists in the situation makes it one of Allen’s most enjoyable films and is definitely for you if you are looking to watch an entertaining comedy against the backdrop of a detective film.