Friday, June 21, 2013
The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen (Part 1)
One of the great filmmakers to emerge in the second half of the 20th Century and endure into the 21st Century, Woody Allen is a man who definitely has a style of his own. Whether it’s in slapstick comedy inspired by the Marx Brothers or odes to European cinema from the likes of Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman. He’s always been a filmmaker that admits that he makes films based on what he wants to see. There’s been some great films in his career but there’s also been some duds. Yet, he’s managed to maintain a devoted following of fans and critics who have been with him for nearly 60 years as he has no plans to slow down.
Born on December 1, 1935, Allan Stewart Konigsberg was born in the Bronx in New York City as he was later raised in the borough of Brooklyn with his younger sister Letty Aronson as he was raised in a Jewish family as he would be influenced by his upbringing as he was also into comedy and magic where he had become an accomplished magician in his teens. By the time he had turn 17, he had already named himself Woody Allen as he had legally changed his named to Heywood Allen around that time. After attending the City College of New York where he later flunked out, he went on his own to study film and communications while teaching at The New School at Greenwich Village where he studied under the tutelage of Lajos Egri.
Having already become a gifted writer in comedy, Allen was hired to write scripts for TV shows like The Ed Sullivan Show at the age of 19 where was making good money while developing his craft as a humorist. In the early 1960s, Allen would delve into the world of stand-up comedy where he would eventually record comedy albums that proved to be hits while collaborating with high school friend Mickey Rose on creating jokes. Notably as Allen would create a persona of a nebbish yet neurotic individual who would be a trademark of Allen’s work. Allen’s popularity in comedy also had him creating plays where eventually gained success with 1966’s Don’t Drink the Water that later became a feature film in 1969 directed by Howard Morris that starred Jackie Gleason which didn’t please Allen. With his popularity as a comedian already growing, it was time for Allen to venture into the world of film.
Part 1: The Early Years (1965-1980)
What’s New Pussycat? (screenplay)/What's Up Tiger Lily?
Through his work in comedy and in theater, Allen was given the chance to take part in a film project that was to star Warren Beatty, Peter O’Toole, Peter Sellers, Romy Schneider, and Ursula Andress. Directed by Clive Donner, What’s New Pussycat? would be a comedy revolving around a womanizer’s attempt to stay faithful to his fiancée. With Allen also asked to write the film by its producer Charles K. Feldman, Allen wrote a script that was more zany as the final script was much funnier than the original concept. Yet, the screenplay also caused issues when Warren Beatty, who was supposed to play the lead, wasn’t happy about his role being reduced as it led to problems in the production as he eventually quit the film. Allen’s experience with the production was definitely troublesome as he vowed never to work with Warren Beatty ever again. At the same time, the chaos of the production prompted Allen to take some control in his work as the resulting film was very different from everything he had written.
Allen then decided to helm a project with his friend Mickey Rose in taking Senkichi Taniguchi’s 1965 spy film International Secret Police: Key of Keys and re-dub the entire film with different dialogues and storylines that had nothing to do with the original. The film would mark Allen’s first collaboration with producer Charles H. Joffe who would become Allen’s most ardent supporter for almost the entirety of his filmmaking career. With Allen only making a few appearances for the film, he was focused on just creating something that was offbeat as the voice work would include contributions from his then-wife in actress Louise Lasser.
During post-production, the studio that funded the project decided to expanded it into a feature film by adding more material from another Taniguchi spy from that series much to Allen’s dismay. Though the final project wasn’t to Allen’s liking as it included appearances from the folk-rock band the Lovin’ Spoonfuls who also appeared in the film. Allen took more of his time to get more experience in the world of filmmaking as he made an appearance in the 1967 James Bond spoof film Casino Royale. The chaotic production with its many directors involved finally made Allen realize that if he was going to write another film. He had to be in complete control of everything he does or else he would be taken advantage by the film industry which was starting to lose touch with an audience that was mired in social changes.
Take the Money and Run
After a period of doing theaters and more comedy work, Allen wrote a new screenplay with Mickey Rose that would be told in the form of a documentary about an inept criminal who tries to make a name for himself in the world of crime. The project would be produced by Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins as the latter would also become another key figure in Allen’s work. While the three originally approached Jerry Lewis to helm the film, it didn’t work as Allen decided to direct the film himself while ensuring that he would have complete control of the production.
With Allen also playing the lead role of Virgil Starkwell, the cast would include an appearance from Louise Lasser while Allen’s lady would be played by Janet Margolin. The film would be a mixture of slapstick comedy with a documentary style in which Allen would create a new genre of sorts known as the mockumentary. Allen would create moments where characters are talking to the camera about Starkwell where some are embarrassed while there are those who are in awe of his resilience to try and not give up no matter how bad he is in trying to commit crime. Even as the story was told in a style in which the narrative moved back-and-forth to unveil Starkwell’s antics and people’s recollection with some insight from Starkwell himself.
While Allen was able to get the services of famed music composer Marvin Hamlisch to take part in the project, he would gain another collaborator in editor Ralph Rosenblum who would be a figure to help shape Allen’s film for much of the 1970s. Rosenblum’s influence also impacted the final project as well as changing the ending in which Allen’s original ending was more downbeat as he convinced Allen to go for something more light-hearted.
The film was released in August of 1969, the film did modestly well in the box office while it got some excellent notices from the critics. Despite losing some money, the film was able to help Allen continue his filmmaking career as he was finally pleased with the film that he made. Thanks to the support of his producers and gaining a collaborator in Ralph Rosenblum, Allen was on his way to the start of one of the great filmmaking careers in cinema.
With his filmmaking career finally getting off the ground, Allen and Mickey Rose decided to create another film that would be inspired by their love of slapstick humor. This time around, it be a political comedy that explored the world of dictators and its revolving door in underdeveloped Latin American countries. Entitled Bananas, the film would be about a neurotic blue collar man who tries to impress his activist ex-girlfriend to prove that he’s politically active by taking part in a social revolution in the fictional country of San Marcos where he later becomes its leader.
With a bigger budget and more location shooting outside of New York City in parts of Puerto Rico and Lima, Peru, the film was definitely a much broader film than his predecessor as Allen got the chance to create more unique shots as well as scenes where Allen can create moments that are funny. Even as he plays the lead role of Fielding Mellish as someone who is kind of a wimp but also full of heart and humor who is also quite horny. The cast would include Louise Lasser as the leading lady while the film would also feature appearances from Carlos Montalban as the new dictator as well as sports announcer Howard Cossell as himself and an early appearance from Sylvester Stallone as a thug Allen’s character tries to confront.
With Marvin Hamlisch contributing the music for the film, Allen would create moments where he plays up the farce of these social revolutions as well as how silly they are. Even as his character would later sport a fake beard that has him look a bit like Fidel Castro. The film’s climax involves a very silly courtroom case that showcase not just Allen’s talents in comedy but how he is willing to do whatever it takes to entertain an audience.
The film was released in April of 1971 by United Artists to excellent reviews while becoming a big hit in the box office grossing more than $11 million against its $2 million budget. The film would help cement Allen’s legacy as one of the great figures in comedy as the film was later considered one of the great comedies of the genre from the American Film Institute in the year 2000. The film would also mark Allen’s near-decade work with the revered United Artists studio as they would support him in the years to come.
Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story/Play It Again, Sam (screenplay)
During a break between feature film directing, Allen took part in a TV project for PBS which was to be a short called Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story. The project featured Louise Lasser and a newcomer named Diane Keaton who would become one of Allen’s great regular of actors. The project was a political satire in which Allen played a version of Henry Kissinger as the short would be told in a mockumentary style similar to Take the Money and Run.
Scheduled to air in February of 1972, the project was pulled just before it was air due to its controversial subject matter as the short can only be seen at the Paley Center for Media. Allen vowed never to do television ever again as he decided to collaborate with Herbert Ross in a film version of Allen’s Broadway production of Play It Again, Sam. With Allen writing and starring in the film with the backing of his producers, the project was a much more enjoyable experience as Allen again worked with Diane Keaton as well as longtime friend Tony Roberts who would also be a circle of Allen’s regular actors.
Though the original story was set in New York City, Ross and Allen decided to change the locations to San Francisco where Allen would play a man dealing with relationship issues as he tries to find the perfect woman as he’s obsessed with Humphrey Bogart and the Casablanca. The film would showcase not just Allen’s irreverent humor but also some dramatic elements that played to his protagonist’s plight as he’s dealing with divorce while falling for his best friend’s wife. The film would also have a sense of fantasy as Allen’s character finds himself chatting with the ghost of Humphrey Bogart throughout the film. The film not only helped Allen raise his profile but also put himself into a state of transition as he was going to take more risks with his work in the years to come.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)
Allen’s next directorial feature would find the filmmaker going into a transitional period where he wanted to step away a bit from slapstick comedy while taking on some big ideas in comedy. He would find it in adapting David Reuben’s book Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask) where he would turn the book into a comedy consisting of segments to display several chapters of the book. In taking seven chapters from the book, Allen would not only be able to push boundaries of what he can do in comedy but also in its portrayal of sex.
With the exception of Louise Lasser, Allen would use assemble a massive collective of actors to take part in the project that would include Burt Reynolds, Lynn Redgrave, John Carradine, Tony Randall, Regis Philbin, Jack Barry, and Gene Wilder. Many of which would appear in different segments of the film that would explore the different ideas about sex such as homosexuality, aphrodisiacs, sodomy, orgasms, ejaculation, perversion, and other strange things. What Allen was doing at the time when American cinema was exploring the boundaries of what was obscene and what isn’t showed a filmmaker not only taking major risks but do it in a way that is funny.
The segments Allen would be told in very different styles such as the first segment about aphrodisiacs would be told in medieval times where Allen would play his nebbish persona. Another segment has Allen taking on very different styles that would be played for laughs such as a game show segment in which Regis Philbin hosted a game show about perversion while another featured a man played by Lou Jacobi dressing in women’s clothing during a family dinner to confront the idea if he’s gay. These segments were quite tame in the subjects that Allen was going into as he would get more outrageous in the other segments he created.
One notorious segment involved Gene Wilder’s character falling in love with an Armenian sheep to discuss the idea of bestiality in all of its craziness. It’s a segment that was considered to be shocking that included a scene of the sheep wearing lingerie. Other segments such as the orgasm segment with Allen and Louise Lasser was a tribute to Italian cinema as Allen had openly stated his love for Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini where he did the segment entirely in Italian while wearing sunglasses that were similar to the style of Italian actor Marcello Mastroianni. Allen would push the boundaries even more about the idea of studying sex in a scientific format that involved a giant breast roaming into a small town. The film’s final segment was about conception and what goes on during ejaculation as if it was done in a mission-control room led by Tony Randall and Burt Reynolds while Allen plays a sperm who is afraid of what is out there.
With its $2 million budget, the film became a critical and commercial smash upon its release in August of 1972. The film not only solidified Allen as one of the most intriguing filmmakers of the burgeoning New Hollywood movement of the time but also one who was willing to push the boundaries on what can be told in comedy. The film would also mark an end of an era of sorts where it would be the last time Allen would work with Louise Lasser as they had finalized their divorce two years ago though Lasser would eventually make a cameo in Allen’s 1980 film Stardust Memories.
With some success already building as well as gaining control for his work, Allen was ready to take more risks in the world of film where he decided to tackle science fiction. Allen found his idea in H.G. Wells’ When the Sleeper Wakes which was about a man who wakes up 200 years later to find himself in a dystopian world. The concept of Wells’ book would have Allen create his own interpretation of the story where it would be told in a comedic matter which revolved a man who had been cryogenically frozen for 200 years where he arrives in a dystopian world where hilarity ensues and all sorts of things.
The film marked the very first collaboration Allen would have Marshall Brickman whom he had met in the late 1960s. Brickman and Allen had very similar ideas to humor as the two would write the script together that would become Sleeper. The film would have Allen playing the lead as a health foods store owner/jazz musician who is baffled by the new world he’s in where the future where sex is sort of nonexistent, nothing really makes any sense, and some stuff in the future doesn’t even work.
For Allen’s leading lady, Diane Keaton was chosen making it their very first feature film collaboration together as it was widely considered one of the great director-actor collaborations in the history of cinema. Shot largely in Denver, Colorado, the film was ambitious in some respects while Allen wanted to infuse the comedic styles of Jack Benny and Benny Hill as if they were in a sci-fi film. Allen wasn’t afraid to put in some gags such as some futuristic soldiers trying to work a bazooka that doesn’t even work or moments where Allen’s character is bumbling around where he becomes a prop.
Similar to the political themes he had explored in Bananas, Allen also takes on more shots in the ideas of revolution where Keaton’s character goes from being a naïve socialite to being part of a rebellion to overthrow the totalitarian rule. Yet, Allen’s character who had experienced these ups and downs in revolutions would tell Keaton that it’s not really going to make anything better as the only thing people need are sex and death.
The film premiered in December of 1973 to a wonderful reception critically and commercially as it would be regarded as one of Allen’s finest films. The film also showcased that there was more to Allen than just comedy as he was taking on some risks in the art form. The film also solidified Allen’s collaboration with Diane Keaton as they would work together for duration of the films made in the 1970s.
Love and Death
Allen’s next project would have him go into more ambitious ideas as he decided to do a film that would make fun of the world of Russian literature. The project would involve around two distant cousins who find themselves entangled into the era of Napoleon Bonaparte where they conspire to assassinate him. Entitled Love and Death, the film would be Allen’s most ambitious project to date as he was would have a $3 million budget while shooting the film in France and Hungary. It would be a very daunting task as the film would mark his second feature-film collaboration with Diane Keaton.
With the two playing the leads of Boris and Sonja, the project would have the two not only improvise together but also play each other off as the film revolved around the ideas of war, identity, and freedom during the period when Napoleon took over Russia in the 19th Century. A lot of it would be told in a comedic manner where Allen lampooned war films but also period films in some respects. Yet, the film would also show Allen putting his influences up front with shots that paid tributes to filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman and Sergei Eisenstein where Allen used the former to match shots in that Bergman style while employing the use of Death in a comedic manner.
Despite the ideas that Allen was having, the production was not as smooth as he wanted it to be. In his first film shot entirely outside of the U.S., Allen encountered things that would’ve made a lesser filmmaker call it quits. Bad food, bad weather, communication issues with the multi-lingual crew, and all sorts of things made the making of the film an unpleasant experience for Allen. After shooting was finished, Allen decided to never make another film outside of the U.S.
The film officially made its premiere at the 1975 Berlin Film Festival where Allen won the Silver Bear prize for outstanding artistic contribution. The film was later released in June of 1975 where it was well-received critically and commercially. Yet, the film also marked a major change in Allen’s foray as a filmmaker where he was becoming more confident in his role as a director and as a screenwriter. Plus, he was starting to stray further away from the more slapstick approach to comedy that had made his famous where he was to take a bold step into his career.
After a period of films in which Woody Allen were making comedies that either lampooned a genre or making fun of something else. It was time for Allen to take some drastic steps into his career. Instead of making films that had Allen’s nebbish persona be played for laughs, Allen decided to go inward into something that was personal but also would be completely different from everything else he had done before. While there will be some humor in this film, it would balanced by some drama as the film would play into Allen’s fascination with the idea of love, self-identity, art, and religion. These were themes that Allen had explored in his earlier work but he decides to go much further in the film that would eventually become Annie Hall.
With Marshall Brickman helping him to write the script as it went through many drafts where it was finally completed in December of 1975 just as Allen had turned forty. While there were still ideas in the script that were unresolved, Allen and Brickman submitted the script to United Artists executives who were unsure about the film. Still, Allen was able to get the money he needed with help from Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins as well as Robert Greenhut whom Allen had met during the production of the 1976 Hollywood blacklist comedy-drama The Front that Allen had starred in with Zero Mostell. Greenhut would become one of Allen’s new key collaborators in the project as he would help fund and produce Allen’s films for the next 20 years.
While retaining Ralph Rosenblum as his editor, Allen also gained another important collaborator in cinematographer Gordon Willis who had already gotten acclaim for his work in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather and its sequel as well as Alan J. Pakula’s All the President’s Men. Willis’ contributions would not help Allen get more detail into the look of the films but also have Allen take on more ideas as a director where he wouldn’t just focus on creating gags. Instead, Willis would get Allen to become more confident as a filmmaker where Allen became concerned about composition but also breaking down the ideas of what can be told in film.
With Diane Keaton co-headlining the film as the titular character while Allen plays her love interest Alvy Singer. The film would also include longtime Allen cohort Tony Robbins as well as appearances from then-newcomer Christopher Walken, Shelley Duvall, Carole Kane, Janet Margolin, Jeff Goldblum, and rock musician Paul Simon. Shot largely in New York City, Allen decided to do things that were different in terms of location setting as he made the city a major character in the film. There were also moments in the film where Allen would create elements of fantasy as it plays to the relationship of Annie and Alvy as they endure highs and lows in the course of the relationship where it’s told largely from Alvy’s perspective just as it had ended.
The film also had moments where Allen was willing to challenge the ideas of storytelling that included a scene where a man misinterprets the work of Marshall McLuhan prompting Alvy to state his frustrations at that man. Then the real Marshall McLuhan appears to tell the man that he knows nothing about his work. There are also elements where Allen keeps the comedy restrained with a sense of drama for the fact that Alvy endures so much heartbreak in his relationship with Annie where creates an ending that is sort of melancholic but also has an element of hope. It becomes the key moment where not only does Allen reach some new mature heights with his work as a writer but also becomes a full-fledge storyteller and actor that would define himself as an artist.
The film premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival in March of 1977 where it would get a theatrical release a month later. The film was a huge commercial smash making it one of Allen’s highest grossing features of his career with a total of $38 million while the film was given rave reviews from various critics in the U.S. as well as Britain where Allen was starting to gain traction in Europe. The film would garner lots of accolades including a Golden Globe for Best Actress to Diane Keaton, five British Academy Awards for Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Editing to Ralph Rosenblum and Wendy Greene Bricmont, Best Direction for Allen, and another Best Actress prize to Diane Keaton.
At the 50th Academy Awards in March of 1978, the film was nominated for five where it would be the big winner winning four Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director to Allen (who was also nominated for Best Actor), Best Original Screenplay to Allen and Marshall Brickman, and Best Actress to Diane Keaton. The film’s win was a surprise against the more-popular Star Wars as it would later be considered a classic. Allen didn’t attend the ceremonies as he chose to stay in New York City to play at a jazz club where he was a clarinetist for a jazz group. Though Allen had mixed feelings about the final product of the film, his reputation was elevated into becoming one of the key figures in American cinema.
With the power to now do whatever he wanted, Allen decided to shift gears completely by not going for a traditional follow-up to Annie Hall. Instead of giving people what they want, Allen decided to go into a different territory as he looked towards the work of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. Bergman was a filmmaker who made films that were daring and asked big questions on life and all sorts of things. While Allen had referenced Bergman in some of his previous films, he decided to use Bergman as a template for his very first dramatic feature entitled Interiors.
The film would explore the life of a family where three women are dealing with the separation of their parents. Particularly as their mother is an artistically-inclined interior decorator who is also mentally unstable and controlling to the point that she is somewhat disconnected from reality. In order to tackle the subject head-on, Allen chose not to appear in the film or feature a lot of humor in the film as he was interested in looking at the life of a very fragile family. Notably in the relationship between sisters who are very different in which they all react to the changes in their family once their father decides to marry another woman.
With Diane Keaton playing the role of one of the sisters, the cast would include Geraldine Page and E.G. Marshall as the parents, Maureen Stapleton as the father’s new love, Mary Beth Hurt and Kristin Griffith as the other sisters, and Richard Jordan and Sam Waterston as the son-in-laws. The film has Allen taking a look into the life of a family where he goes for entrancing compositions to capture a family breaking apart by this separation as well as boiling resentments that are emerging between two of the sisters. With Gordon Willis helping out in the cinematography and Ralph Rosenblum on the editing, Allen was making choices that definitely seemed unheard of as far as what people were expecting from him.
Notably in the fact that he chooses not to have a film score throughout the film while putting the camera from afar to create some dazzling compositions. There are also elements in which Allen infuses his own ideas such as the wedding party scene between E.G. Marshall’s Arthur character and Maureen Stapleton’s Pearl where Pearl is dancing all alone where everyone is watching. Yet, Diane Keaton and Mary Beth Hurt are gazing at her with some disdain from the latter as it will play to some kind of emotional moment. That moment would be tame in comparison to the penultimate sequence in which Hurt’s character finally talks to Geraldine Page about everything she’s been through and all of the resentment where it would have this huge emotional moment. It is in that moment where Allen was finally taking steps as a filmmaker while proving he can do drama.
Despite some uncertainty over the film, Allen did finally release it in August of 1978 where the film would divide audiences. There were those who loved the film for its drama as well as Allen’s approach to drama. Yet, there were those that didn’t like the film as they felt that Allen was imitating Bergman too much and wasn’t adept to drama. Still, the film marked a stepping stone for Allen to take on bigger challenges in his approach as a storyteller as he was moving further and further away from the comedy of his early years.
Having taking more risks with some of his previous films, Allen decided that his next film would be not just a love letter to his home of New York City but also pay tribute to the music of George Gershwin. With Marshall Brickman teaming up to write the script that would become Manhattan, the film would be another romantic comedy of sorts involving a 42-year old twice-divorced man who falls for his best friend’s mistress while he’s in a relationship with a 17-year old woman. It would be a film filled with lots of complexities into the world of romance as well as a world that is starting to change around this TV comedy writer who feels disconnected with the modern world.
With Diane Keaton playing the role of the mistress Mary, the film would also include Mariel Hemingway, Michael Murphy, Anne Byrne, Wallace Shawn, and Meryl Streep in a small but crucial role as one of Allen’s ex-wives who has just come of the closet as a lesbian. Allen also decided that film should have a look that would make it standout from his other films as he and cinematographer Gordon Willis aimed for a black-and-white look in a 2:35:1 theatrical aspect ratio to give the film a timeless look. With editor Ralph Rosenblum unable to take part in the project marking the end of his longtime collaboration with Allen. Rosenblum did suggest that Allen use one of his apprentice editors in Susan E. Morse who would become Allen’s new collaborator as she would be his editor for almost the next two decades.
With this approach to shoot the film in black-and-white film stock, Allen wanted to go for something where even though the film is set in the late 70s. It had a feeling where it looked like a film from the early 20th Century where Willis’ photography added a richness that wouldn’t be replicated in the many films Allen would’ve done since. Notably in the many location shots of the city including a gorgeous shot of the bridge that would become one of the film’s most iconic images.
Allen’s use of the music of George Gershwin would also help the film add something to its rich quality where it contained a sense of melancholia that Allen was craving for. Notably in his character’s struggles with love and the fact that he is seeing things around him changing as his ex-wife has published a book about their marriage. There was also an element of fantasy that Allen used with Gershwin’s music to play up the idea of love and what Allen’s Isaac character wanted it to be.
The film was released in April of 1979 to widespread acclaim from its critics while becoming a hit in the American box office. A month later, Allen premiered the film at the Cannes Film Festival making it his first trip to the festival though film played out of competition. Despite the great reception the film received worldwide and its financial success along with accolades such as two Oscar nominations for its screenplay and a Supporting Actress nod for Mariel Hemingway as well as the Best Director prize from the New York Critics Circle and a BAFTA for best film. Allen had reservations about the film’s final product as he wasn’t enthused about its final results sparking a cool in his relationship with United Artists.
The film would also mark the beginning of the end of sorts for Allen as he ended the 70s on a high note as he was ready to emerge to a new decade. With Ralph Rosenblum no longer part of Allen’s team of collaborators in place of Susan E. Morse, Diane Keaton was starting to move into circles that would force her to end her collaboration with Allen for several years. Another person that would leave Allen’s circle of collaborators was Marshall Brickman as the two chose to part ways for some time.
After a trio of films that leaned towards drama, Allen was already becoming a big name in American films but there were those who felt that Allen was losing touch with his audiences who had favored his earlier comedies. Still, Allen knew he still has a sense of humor where he decided to make a film inspired by Federico Fellini’s 1963 classic 8 ½ into something that would reflect a filmmaker’s struggle as he wants to move on as he reluctantly attends a retrospective of his work. Though Allen would make claims that the film wasn’t autobiographical nor was a response to the accusations he was receiving from fans of his earlier work. The film would once again mark another period of transition from Allen as he would call the film Stardust Memories.
With a cast that would include appearances from Allen cohorts Tony Roberts and Louise Lasser where the latter has a cameo as a secretary. The film’s cast would include British actress Charlotte Rampling, French actress Marie-Christine Barrault, and Jessica Harper who had appeared in a small role in Love and Death as they would play the three women Allen’s character Sandy Bates is drawn to. The film would play into Bates’ struggle with his love life as well as his own career as the film would contain very deep questions into the idea of fame and celebrity. Particularly its drawbacks where people are in awe of someone as they continually kiss their ass and such but there are those who feel that the person should work for the audience rather than himself.
It’s a film where Allen raises questions about that world as well as the struggles of being an artist as his character is trying to finish a film as Allen infuses a lot of humor to showcase that struggle. Many of which played to elements of surrealism that are similar to the ideas that Fellini brought where Allen brought in scenes that echoed Fellini’s film such as the opening scene that featured an early appearance from Sharon Stone. At the same time, Allen was able to find ways to subvert the audiences’ expectation about what he wanted to say as if he was telling them that he’ll make whatever he wants to make no matter if they like them or not.
The film premiered in September 1980 where despite being a modest hit in the box office, the film divided critics and audiences. While there were those that appreciated Allen’s ode to Fellini and its humor, there were those who felt that Allen was being cruel to his fans of his early work. Still, the film did exactly what Allen wanted as it would be his final film for United Artists as Allen decided to take a break from projects. Notably as he was ready to move on into new territory for the next decade to come.
(End of Part 1)
Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4
© thevoid99 2013