The last few months I’ve been binging hard on Woody Allen films, so I thought it about time to share my affection for this talented little Jewish man to the world. Here are some of my favourite Woody Allen moments, in no particular order, from a variety of his films and appearances.
In the science-fiction, semi-silent comedy Sleeper, Woody Allen plays Miles Monroe, a man from 1970s Brooklyn who after a minor operation finds himself cryogenically frozen and subsequently awakened 200 years in the future. In this scene he has just been rescued by members of an underground rebel movement, after being captured and having his personality re-configured by a dystopian government. He is here being coerced back to his original personality through role playing, yet his personality seems to have gotten trapped somewhere else and in particularly genius fashion that somewhere else happens to be in the character of Blanche from A Streetcar Named Desire. Anyone interested in theatre or film will no doubt be familiar with that iconic role and seeing Woody act out Blanche with Diane Keaton acting as Stanley in return is just as hilarious and inspired as it sounds.
Deconstructing Harry (1997):
Seemingly one of his most autobiographical, even though he himself denies this, the film follows Harry, a man that can only be understood by the stories he writes. The plot follows Harry as he attempts to travel to his old University to recieve an honourary award, taking a prostitute, a corpse and his kidnapped son along with him. This scenario is just as rediculous and hilarious as it sounds but what makes the film one of my favourites is how creative Allen gets with the whole thing. The short stories that Harry writes are shown within the film in seperate segments, such as one featuring Robin Williams as an actor who one day becomes literally ‘out of focus’. This is one of the most memorable scenes from this hilarious film and deserves a watch. I recommend the film and feel it is an almost under-rated entry in Allen’s catalogue.
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
One of Allen’s best films, released during his creative peak where he didn’t miss a beat. It’s an ensemble film featuring great performances particularly from Michael Cain, Mia Farrow, Dianne West and notably featuring Ingmar Bergman favourite Max von Sydow. This particular scene finds Woody Allen’s intensely neurotic character Mickey reaching breaking point after a failed search for God, about to attempt a suicide. He fails in his attempt and rushes out onto Manhattan streets, where he eventually takes solice in a movie theatre. Allen’s character relaxes and even begins to enjoy himself upon watching a Marx brothers film, which allows him to discover a new reason for living. These kinds of cynical yet uplifting existentialist themes is part of what attracts me so much to Allen’s filmography. I believe in this scene he found a particularly touching and resonant way to demonstrate how a love of something such as film can inspire one to find meaning in the ever perplexing thing called life.
Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
One of his more under-appreciated films, but in my opinion one of the strongest of the 90s. Allen plays a (wait for it) neurotic married man, Lenny, who is convinced by his wife to adopt a child. He becomes enamoured with their adopted son, who is particularly intelligent. Due to some impulse he decides to track down the mother of the child, who turns out to be a prostitute and a porn star called Linda Ash (Mira Sorvino) – her stage name: Judy Cum. Lenny tries his best to improve Linda’s life, for the sake of his child if he ever wishes to track down his birth mother and chaos ensures. What makes the film is Mira Sorvino’s brilliant performance as Linda Ash, playing the prostitute with just the right mix of naivety and innocence, making her quite the charming character. One scene finds Linda describing to Lenny how she found her start in the adult industry. Watch above – it’s classic (it’s a link rather than a youtube clip because I’m linking you directly to a time within a clip).