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visitors since May 12, 2002
June 18, 2002
Anything this good reminds me of Bob Dylan

Saw Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters at the Astor on Sunday night. I've always loved both films, and it was nice to touch base with them again.

Manhattan, especially, looks more and more like a film from an another world. The telephones are antiquated. The characters who write for a living all use typewriters, or pens. No one emails anyone. It's becoming a fascinating historical document, and it's only 23 years old.

Something I'd never noticed before is Woody's acting skill. For a man who started off writing television comedy, and then became a stand-up, he's convincing as an actor, and convincing as a romantic lead. The last scene of the film has him confronting 17 year old Muriel Hemingway, and it's her scene. Woody just has to stand there and listen to her express her long pent-up feelings towards him. Stand-up comedians tend do this kind of scene really badly, because they have a natural tendency is to make little jokes and avoid the emotional reality being thrown at them. But Woody doesn't do that. He listens to her, respectfully, and bows to her wishes. It's a great scene.

Hannah and Her Sisters is much more an ensemble piece, which is partly why it's a better film. We don't even see Woody for a few scenes. At the start we see Michael Caine focussing his attention on Barbara Hershey. Mia Farrow, as Hannah, also makes an early appearance. All these characters are immediately convincing and interesting, and we quickly realise that this is a more ambitious film than Manhattan. What I love about it is that Woody pulls it off. He creates a bigger world, and fills it with brilliant details, and takes the whole thing somewhere unexpected.

Hannah has a wonderful ending. Early in his film career, Woody just played for laughs, so his plotlines would swerve off in any direction. This approach often meant that he struggled to provide a satisfying end to his films. In the late seventies, with Annie Hall and Manhattan, he started making much more adult, relationship-based films. But these also proved difficult to end. This is because relationships tend to be ongoing, one way or another, but stories need to stop somewhere. Romantic films solve this problem by having the leads marry each other, and arthouse films end with one of the lovers leaving, or dying. Woody comes up something new, and it's magnificent. If you've never seen any of this man's films, start with Hannah and Her Sisters.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 10:00 AM in the Reviews category | Comments (0)
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