5 March 2021.
Last week I stood up for Woody Allen, one of cinema’s greatest creators, against a one-sided (4-part!!) documentary in the ongoing smear campaign against him. I still stand by him, no matter how they try to bury the man and his body of work. I won’t repeat all my reasons in his defense – go back and read them. By the way, I neglected to mention last week that Penelope Cruz also won an Oscar for his film VICKY, CRISTINA, BARCELONA. That makes four of his actresses (Dianne Wiest twice!) who have won Oscars in his films.
There have been pros and cons from readers, but that’s the way of life – different tastes and opinions make the world go ‘round…
This week, I recommend a few of the lesser-known gems in his incredibly rich oeuvres of 50+ films in the past fifty five years. Not an easy task to pick just these few, as he has had, to my mind, less than a handful of duds in his vast cinematography. The man is a philosopher and a comedic genius, but I repeat myself…
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY (1982)
This delightful period pastiche was an homage to both Ingmar Bergman (“Smiles of a Summer Night”) and William Shakespeare (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”) in its naughty, playful vision of numerous, intermingled love duos. And it was Mia Farrow’s first film with Allen.
ANOTHER WOMAN (1988)
ANOTHER WOMAN (1988) Again Bergman-esque, here’s a contemplative look at a woman (a very touching Gena Rowlands) reminiscing about her lost loves in the autumn of her years. As this is Allen’s serious period, there’s not a bit of laughter here – only a woman finding her reality as she overhears another woman in analysis. It’s all Woody again, through his brilliant portrayals of women.
BROADWAY DANNY ROSE (1984)
This is the quintessential Woody Allen film – it has New York, a bunch of buddies shooting the breeze, and a small-time theatrical agent (Allen himself) with quirky clients, who turns out to be the fool in the pack. It’s also a tangled love triangle with some gangsters involved, and even an Italian crooner. A moving, tragicomic masterpiece.
BULLETS OVER BROADWAY (1994)
Again New York of course, but this one is a more hilarious yarn about a playwright with writer’s block who hands his work to a gangster who turns out to be the true literary talent. In the midst of all this concern about where art comes from, we get crazy romance, real bullets and lots of hilarity. Dianne Wiest’s second (Allen) Oscar was won for her over-the-top performance.
SWEET AND LOWDOWN (1999)
The title says it all really. For this delicate film about a mythical jazz guitarist, played by an egoistic yet poignant Sean Penn, has much tenderness to it. There is a sad/sweet romance with an innocent mute girl (a bit of Fellini’s “La Strada”), rollicking music à la Django Reinhardt, and many twist-and-turns, as always with an Allen film. A true treasure not to miss.
Superb **** Very Good *** Good ** Mediocre * Miserable – no stars
Neptune Ravar Ingwersen reviews film extensively for publications in Switzerland. She views 4 to 8 films a week and her aim is to sort the wheat from the chaff for readers.