Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
Damn that Astor Theatre! The films I'm most interested to see there are the classics, which screen on Sunday and Monday evenings. Why, I don't know, but I'm told that's the way it's always been. Fridays and Saturdays are my preferred nights, when I don't have work the next day. As previously mentioned, I have an early start for this week and next, and with French lessons Tuesday evening I couldn't stay for the second of the Woody Allen double on Monday. Regrettably I missed out on Manhattan, but will catch it some time in the future (the Astor screens these from time to time).
I've seen the last few recent Woody films, and everyone always says "you've got to see his early stuff". Well now I know why. There's a real insight in this gentle film. There's lust, there's complexity, passion, intelligence and warmth. There's also that nutty guy Woody in it, but he's more a side-show to the real action, a little comic relief. When he's being funny, he is funny and when he's being serious, I found him compelling. The incident with the rifle was both, and had me on the edge of my seat.
I hate reality TV and didn't watch that US show where a bunch of nerds have to impress an equal number of babettes. Others in the family did, and I couldn't help but notice a Woody-like character among those nerds. I'm sure many people found him irritating, but I thought he was - like Woody - quite entertaining and clearly hyper-intelligent. In fact, I went to school with an almost identical character, a noyce Jewish guy called Sammy Pinkus. Our paths crossed a couple of years ago when he started at a company I was leaving - we both work in IT. I swear, he was just like these two (and I mean that in the nicest possible way). He was loud, he was funny, neurotic and SOOO Jewish. There is obviously an archetypal 'Woody' personality type.
The film has a realistic blend of conflicting personality types and Allen deftly handles the complexity of the various relationships, weaving in a whole range of emotions, conflict and humour. The three actresses actually looked like sisters, adding to the authenticity of the film. The film is over twenty years old now, so it was fascinating to see younger versions of so many familiar faces, especially Allen himself. He did well to remain in the shadow of this film, allowing the serious drama to unfold, and showing restraint. I suppose the word I'm looking for is 'discipline', something that lacks in his more slapstick films.
Like a number of New York directors such as Martin Scorsese, Allen obviously loves his native city and the film is clearly a homage to Manhattan. It forms a backdrop and an essential element of the film. It was interesting to try to pick where various scenes were shot and how they had changed over time. I liked the generosity of human spirit, sophistication and intelligence of this film a lot and look forward to discovering more of his early work.