Midnight in Paris came out on DVD this week (here's a review), almost perfectly timed to coincide with the end of the BFI Woody Allen Season (which ends today). After attempting to blog along with the retrospective of one of my favourite directors, I soon realised I didn't have the time. So instead, as a spectacular finale to the whole series, I spent the last couple of weeks gradually condensing all the highs and lows of Woody Allen's film-making career into one easy game of compare-the-statistics fun.
Spend all your time arguing about which Woody Allen film is the best? Settle the debate once and for all with your own Woody Allen Top Trumps deck. That's right. Woody Allen Top Trumps.
You all know the basic set-up (deal out the pack, pick a stat off your top facing card, read it aloud and whoever has the highest/lowest wins the round). Read on to see which categories are best - then download the full deck ready for you to print off here.
“Let me tell you a story and you tell me, is it material for a comedy or a tragedy?”
The starting point for Melinda and Melinda is the opening for every Woody Allen movie. As a director who finds comedy in the depressing and futile meaningless of life, Allen’s best work features comedy that stems from serious drama. Hannah and Her Sisters. The Purple Rose of Cairo. Husbands and Wives. Manhattan.
That duality is something that Allen openly confronts in binary titles. Crimes and Misdemeanors. Melinda and Melinda. Even Love and Death highlights the contrast between the silliness of farce and the philosophy of Chekhov. It’s when the director steps away from this balance that he starts to falter - see the Bergman-inspired Interiors, or the melodramatic Match Point, which expands one half of Crimes and Misdemeanours into a full feature-length narrative.
And so, as the BFI Woody Allen season continues, here are some thoughts on two of Woody’s most explicitly binary movies.
"I just met a wonderful new man. He's fictional but you can't have everything."
There's something about the surreal tone of Woody Allen, that intelligent silliness, that often reminds me of Monty Python. But unlike Python, Woody's neurotic humour stems from the inherently bleak, futile crappiness of human existence. And, of course, most of the grief (as well as the good bits) come from relationships.
Indeed, for the most part, it isn't a Woody Allen film if two married couples aren't both having affairs - usually with each other. So, to continue this blog-along series with the BFI Woody Allen season, here are some thoughts on two films with particularly tempestuous relationships.
"Chapter One. He adored New York City. He idolized it all out of proportion. No, make that he, he romanticized it all out of proportion. Better. To him, no matter what the season was, this was still a town that existed in black and white and pulsated to the great tunes of George Gershwin. Uh, no, let me start this over."
It's impossible not to quote that monologue when talking about Woody Allen movies - and the BFI Woody Allen season doesn't disappoint. And so we turn to Manhattan, a location so adored by the director that it gave its name to the title of his movies. Twice.
As the Woody Allen BFI season continues this month, it seems apt to start this second look back at the director’s back catalogue with the letter B: Bananas, Broadway Danny Rose and Bullets Over Broadway.
Regarded as “one of his early, funny ones”, Bananas begins with a crowd stampeding a government office after El Presidente is assassinated. Amid the hordes of protestors, an American news reporter fights his way through the crowd with a wired microphone in hand.
It’s a chaotic opening scene and that confusion never lets up over a haphazard 80 minutes, but Bananas establishes a plot structure that Allen has returned to over the years: an unwitting, neurotic male chases after a female, only to get involved with a bunch of shady individuals – in this case, a group of rebels in the fictional dictatorship of San Marcos.
If you spotted Midnight in Paris in my Top 11 Films of 2011 or spoken to me at any length about film, you'll be aware that I'm a massive Woody Allen fan. I get that a lot of people aren't, especially after Match Point, but if you're only familiar with his Scarlett Johansson years, then I can't recommend the BFI's current season enough.
Tying in with the official re-release of Hannah and Her Sisters and Zelig by the wonderful Park Circus, the good old BFI are doing a retrospective of his work called "Wise Cracks: The Comedies of Woody Allen". Between now and Wednesday 8th February, they're showing 22 of the director's films - a sizeable 46.8 per cent of his 45-year output.
The good news? They're starting off with two of his best. The bad news? I'm going to attempt to keep up with them. I'm not going to call it BlogalongaWoody. Yet. But if you're a fellow Woody fan and you do a wee blog about the BFI series, let me know and I'll link to it.
Carla Bruni, Mrs Nicholas Sarkozy, has said yes. Yes, to Woody Allen's offer of a role in a future film. France's First Lady, former singer, model and now stateswoman, is now set to follow in the steps of her sister, Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who is an experienced actress in her own right.
Mrs Bruni, with her brief appearance in Robert Altman's Pret-a-Porter and alleged affairs with blokes from Eric Clapton to Mick Jagger, seems the perfect fit for the neurotic sex-mad film-maker. "I'm monogamous from time to time, but I prefer polygamy and polyandry," Bruni once said. It already sounds like a line from Mia Farrow or Diane Keaton.
Previously, Allen said: "I'm sure she would be wonderful. She has charisma and she performs, so she's not unknown to an audience, and I would cast her in many different ways. She is an accomplished artist, she is very beautiful and I am sure she would have a gift for comedy." I'll wait to see the proof of that last part.