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Woody Allen (1935 - )
Lifespan: 1935 -
Related: American cinema - comedy - existentialism - pessimism - New York City - director
Following the example of Charlie Chaplin, Orson Welles and other auteurs he usually writes, directs, and acts in most of his films. Also like Chaplin, Allen's best movies combine humor with tenderness and pathos. But Allen's film persona is a modern and very verbal one, self-absorbed, full of neuroses, psychobabble, and insecurity. He is thus largely a character actor, who rarely plays roles outside of this persona. Almost all of his own films have been set in Manhattan, providing a sophisticated and somewhat romanticized image of the city as background to his story line.
For inspiration, Allen draws heavily on literature, philosophy, psychology, European cinema and, most importantly, New York City, where he was born and in which he has lived all his life. [Sept 2006]
Perhaps the filmmaker most associated with New York is Woody Allen, whose films include Annie Hall and Manhattan.
BiographyWoody Allen (b. December 1, 1935), original name Allen Stewart Konigsberg, legal name Heywood Allen, is one of the major American film directors and comedians of the second half of the 20th century. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woody_Allen [Jan 2005]
Melinda and Melinda (2004) - Woody Allen
Melinda and Melinda is a 2004 film written and directed by Woody Allen. The film is set in Allen's favorite location, Manhattan, and stars Radha Mitchell as the protagonist Melinda, in two story lines, one comic, one tragic.
The film also stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Will Ferrell, Jonny Lee Miller, Amanda Peet, Chloë Sevigny, and Wallace Shawn. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melinda_and_Melinda [Jan 2005]
La musique apporte traditionnellement une touche finale très personnelle aux films d’Allen. « Pour Melinda et Melinda, j’ai cherché à construire une ambiance distincte entre les deux tons du récits, mais sans insister. Stravinsky pour les instants sombres et Duke Ellington pour les scènes plus légères. Et puis, au bout d’un moment, j’ai tout mélangé », déclare le réalisateur. --http://www.commeaucinema.com/news.php3?nominfos=33545 [Jan 2005]
I just recently heard a pre-release soundtrack for Melinda & Melinda and it's a powerful compilation. It's packed with at least three tracks each by traditional greats like Duke Ellington and some up-tempo stuff by Erroll Garner. Dick Hyman has collaborated on Woody Allen movies before, he has some stuff on this too.
It's a cool combination of standards like "Take the 'A' Train" and "Moonglow," and some new recordings of contemporary classical pieces like Stravinsky's Concerto in D for String Orchestra and Bartok's String Quartet No. 4. They work really well with the rest of the jazz on the soundtrack. --http://www.ejazznews.com/modules.php?op=modload&name=News&file=article&sid=3730 [Jan 2005]
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0378947/ [Jan 2005]
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) - Woody Allen
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask (1972) - Woody Allen [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) is a comedy film (1972) written and directed by Woody Allen, consisting of a series of short sequences inspired by the book of the same name.
The film was an early smash for Allen, grossing over $18 million dollars in the U.S. alone against a $2 million dollar budget.
- Do Aphrodisiacs Work?
In which a court jester (played by Allen) is foiled by the Queen's chastity belt.
- What is Sodomy?
In which a doctor falls in love with one of his patients...a sheep.
- Do Some Women Have Trouble Reaching Orgasm?
About a woman who can only reach orgasm in public. Allen's homage to Italian film-making in general and Michelangelo Antonioni in particular.
- Are Transvestites Homosexuals?
In which a middle-aged man experiments with women's clothes.
- What Are Sex Perverts?
A send-up of game shows.
- Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research Accurate?
In which the countryside is terrorized by a giant runaway breast.
- What Happens During Ejaculation?
Which is set in the brain (and other parts of the body) as a man gets involved in a sexual clinch.
--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Everything_You_Always_Wanted_to_Know_About_Sex_%28But_Were_Afraid_to_Ask%29_%28film%29 [Jan 2006]
More films as director
- What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966) - Woody Allen, Senkichi Taniguchi [Amazon.com]
What better way for writer-star Woody Allen to cash in on the success of What's New Pussycat? than to write a quickie exploitation comedy that makes fun of quickie exploitation films? In some respects What's Up Tiger Lily? is a forerunner of Mystery Science Theater 3000, only instead of having actors sit back and make sarcastic comments about a cheapo movie, here they dub new dialog onto a ridiculous Japanese spy extravaganza. Allen's exquisite sense of the absurd is in fine form as espionage professionals pursue a top-secret recipe for egg salad. At one point during the planning of a break-in, a spy unfolds a map of their quarry's residence, explaining that the man "lives here." "He lives on that small piece of paper?" questions one of the henchmen. It's that silly. But it's often uproarious. Louise Lasser, Allen's former wife (and co-star of Bananas and future star of TV's Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman) is among the voice actors. --Jim Emerson for amazon.com
What's Up, Tiger Lily? is the first film directed by Woody Allen. He also wrote and appeared in the 1966 comedy, which utilized clips from Kokusai himitsu keisatsu: Kagi no kagi (literal English title: International Secret Police: Key of Keys, 1965, a Japanese spy film. Instead of translating the film, he added completely orginal dialog that had nothing to do with the Japanese film. By putting in new scenes and rearranging the order of existing scenes, he completely changed the tone of the film from a lackluster James Bond clone into a totally original comedy about a secret egg salad recipe. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/What's_Up,_Tiger_Lily%3F [Dec 2005]
- Bananas (1971) - Woody Allen [1 DVD, Amazon US]
Woody Allen's second film as a director was a wild, unpredictable, and unlikely comedy about a product-tester named Fielding Mellish (Allen), who can't quite connect with the woman of his dreams (Louise Lasser, Allen's ex-wife). He accidentally winds up in South America as a freedom fighter for a guerrilla leader who looks like Castro. Once he assumes power, the new dictator quickly goes insane--which leaves Fielding in charge to negotiate with the U.S. The film is chockfull of wonderfully bizarre gags, such as the dreams Fielding recounts to his shrink about dueling crucified messiahs, vying for a parking place near Wall Street. Look for an unknown Sylvester Stallone in a tiny role--but watch this film for Allen's surprisingly physical (and always verbally dexterous) humor. --Marshall Fine for amazon.com [...]
- Annie Hall (1977) - Woody Allen [Amazon US]
Annie Hall is one of the truest, most bittersweet romances on film. In it, Allen plays a thinly disguised version of himself: Alvy Singer, a successful--if neurotic--television comedian living in Manhattan. Annie (the wholesomely luminous Dianne Keaton) is a Midwestern transplant who dabbles in photography and sings in small clubs. When the two meet, the sparks are immediate--if repressed. Alone in her apartment for the first time, Alvy and Annie navigate a minefield of self-conscious "is-this-person-someone-I'd-want-to-get-involved-with?" conversation. As they speak, subtitles flash their unspoken thoughts: the likes of "I'm not smart enough for him" and "I sound like a jerk." Despite all their caution, they connect, and we're swept up in the flush of their new romance. Allen's antic sensibility shines here in a series of flashbacks to Alvy's childhood, growing up, quite literally, under a rumbling roller coaster. His boisterous Jewish family's dinner table shares a split screen with the WASP-y Hall's tight-lipped holiday table, one Alvy has joined for the first time. His position as outsider is uncontestable he looks down the table and sizes up Annie's "Grammy Hall" as "a classic Jew-hater."
The relationship arcs, as does Annie's growing desire for independence. It quickly becomes clear that the two are on separate tracks, as what was once endearing becomes annoying. Annie Hall embraces Allen's central themes--his love affair with New York (and hatred of Los Angeles), how impossible relationships are, and his fear of death. But their balance is just right, the chemistry between Allen's worry-wart Alvy and Keaton's gangly, loopy Annie is one of the screen's best pairings. It couldn't be more engaging. --Susan Benson [...]
- Interiors (1978) - Woody Allen [1 DVD, Amazon US]
Although indisputably a film by Woody Allen, Interiors is about as far from "a Woody Allen film" as you can get--and maybe more people could have seen what a fine film it is if they hadn't been expecting what Allen himself called "one of his earlier, funnier movies." An entirely serious, rather too self-consciously Bergmanesque drama about a divorcing elderly couple and their grown daughters, it is slow, meditative, and constructed with a brilliant, painterly eye. There is no music--a simple effect that Allen uses with extraordinary power. In fact, half the film is filled with silent faces staring out of windows, yet the mood is so engaging, hypnotic even, that you never feel the director is poking you in the ribs and saying, "somber atmosphere." Diane Keaton, released for once from the goofy ditz stereotype, shines as the "successful" daughter. Some of the dialogue is stilted, and it's hard to tell whether this is a deliberate effect or simply the way repressed upscale New Yorkers talk after too many years having their self-absorption sharpened on the therapist's couch. Fanatical, almost childish self-regard is the chief subject of Allen's comedy--it's remarkable that in this film he was able to remove the comedy but leave room for us to pity and care about these rather irritating people. --Richard Farr [...]
- Zelig (1983) - Woody Allen [Amazon US]
The thinking person's Forrest Gump, Woody Allen's 1983 Zelig is a funny, atmospheric mock-documentary about the collision of one man's manifest neuroses colliding with key moments in 20th-century history. Allen plays the title character, a self-effacing, timorous fellow with such a porous personality that he physically becomes a reflection of whoever he is with. Complex and painstaking, the film's pre-Gump special effects manage to place Allen, buried under a series of makeup and prosthetic guises, in a number of scenes along with Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally, a pope at the Vatican, and famous guests at a garden party hosted by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Similar in tone and satire to some of Allen's short, comic pieces published in The New Yorker magazine, Zelig is a one-note movie that takes its delicious time establishing the fullness of its central joke. It's well worth the wait. --Tom Keogh for amazon.com
Zelig was an experiment upon Allen’s part in creating a documentary
- Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) - Woody Allen [1 DVD, Amazon US]
Considered by many to be Woody Allen's best film, even over Annie Hall. Hannah and Her Sisters follows a multitude of characters: Hannah (Mia Farrow), who plays den mother to her extended family; her sister Lee (Barbara Hershey), emotional and a bit of a flake, who's involved with a much older artist (Max Von Sydow), who treats her like a child; and Hannah's other sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest), a neurotic who feels incapable of managing her life. Hannah's husband Elliot (Michael Caine) falls in love with Lee, which sets off a series of upheavals. Allen gives one of his best performances as Hannah's ex-husband Mickey, who--much like Allen himself--is obsessed with death and unhappiness. But a simple summary doesn't begin to capture the warmth and intimacy of this movie; though the story follows a capsizing family, the outcome is surprising, joyous, and richly human. --Bret Fetzer for amazon.com
- Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) - Woody Allen [Amazon US]
Some critics and filmgoers have hailed this 1989 comedy-drama as Woody Allen's best film, and while that's certainly open for debate, a good case can be made that it's the most ambitious and morally complex of Allen's films. It's the kind of movie that provokes heated philosophical debate about the role of God in our lives, the nature of guilt, and the circumstances that would allow a seemingly good, law-abiding family man and successful professional (Martin Landau) to commit a murder with no risk of being caught. Could you live with yourself under those conditions? Allen explores this complicated issue in the context of an extramarital affair that Landau's mistress (Anjelica Huston) threatens to expose, while developing a second story about a documentary filmmaker (Allen) who reluctantly makes a film about his brother-in-law (Alan Alda), a TV sitcom producer whose vanity is seemingly unlimited. From serious crimes to misdemeanors of personal behavior, Allen ties these stories together to create a provocative and unsettling study of divergent moralities and the price we're willing to pay to preserve our personal comfort and happiness. It's a sobering film, but a fascinating and funny one as well, unfolding like a thriller in which the question is not whodunit but rather, would you do it if you knew you could get away with it? --Jeff Shannon for amazon.com
- Sweet and Lowdown (1999) - Woody Allen [DVD, Amazon US]
Woody Allen makes beautiful music but only fitful comedy with his story of "the second greatest guitar player in the world." Sean Penn plays Emmett Ray, an irresponsible, womanizing swing guitar player in Depression-era America who is guided by an ego almost as large as his talent. "I'm an artist, a truly great artist," he proclaims time and time again, and when he plays, soaring into a blissed-out world of pure melodic beauty, he proves it. Samantha Morton almost steals the film as his mute girlfriend Hattie, a sweet Chaplinesque waif who loves him unconditionally, and Uma Thurman brings haughty moxie to her role as a slumming socialite and aspiring writer who's forever analyzing Emmett's peculiarities (like taking his dates to shoot rats at the city dump). The vignettelike tales are interspersed with comments by jazz aficionados and critics, but this is less a Zelig-like mockumentary than an extension of the self-absorbed portraits of Deconstructing Harry and Celebrity. The lazy pace drags at times and the script runs dry between comic centerpieces--the film screams for more of Allen's playful invention--but there's a bittersweet tenderness and an affecting vulnerability that is missing from his other recent work. Shot by Zhao Fei (The Emperor and the Assassin, Raise the Red Lantern), it's one of Allen's most gorgeous and colorful films in years, buoyed by toe-tapping music and Penn's gruffly charming performance. --Sean Axmaker for Amazon.com
- Play It Again, Sam (1972) - Herbert Ross [Amazon US]
Written for the stage and coherently opened up for the screen by veteran director Herbert Ross, Play It Again, Sam is closer to a conventional comedy than Woody Allen's more self-contained films, but his smart script and archetypal hero-nebbish achieve a special charm aimed squarely at movie buffs. Allen is Allan Felix, a film critic on the rebound after his wife's desertion trying to brave the choppy waters of born-again bachelorhood and struggling to reconcile his celluloid obsessions with the hazards of real-world dating. His apartment is a shrine to Humphrey Bogart, and it's none other than Bogey himself who materializes at strategic moments to counsel Allan on romantic strategy. He gets more corporeal aid from his married friends, Linda (Diane Keaton) and Dick (Tony Roberts), who try to orchestrate prospective matches and reassure him when those chemistry experiments explode. When Allan finds himself falling in love with Linda, the dissonance between fantasy and reality proves both funny and poignant--a precursor to the deeper emotionalism missing from the star's earlier directorial efforts that was soon to inform Allen's most affecting '70s comedies. It's also the start of his onscreen relationship with Keaton, further underscoring Allen's evolution toward a more satisfying contemplation of the friction between head and heart. --Sam Sutherland, amazon.com
Play It Again, Sam is a spoof on Casablanca
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