Film Review – CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS (1989)

Image result for crimes and misdemeanors blu-rayCrimes and Misdemeanors (1989; USA; DuArt; 104m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Sven Nykvist; m. Joe Malin (co-ordinator).  Cast: Alan Alda, Woody Allen, Martin Landau, Claire Bloom, Jerry Orbach, Mia Farrow, Anjelica Huston, Dolores Sutton, Sam Waterston, Joanna Gleason, Stephanie Roth Haberle, Gregg Edelman, Daryl Hannah, Kenny Vance, Joel Fogel. An opthamologist’s mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman. Allen’s examination of the moral dilemma is played out over two intertwining stories – one deadly and darkly serious, the other satirically comic with Allen delivering incisive one-liners. That the cocktail works beautifully is a credit to Allen’s skills as writer and director. Landau and Hustom deliver scintillatingly real performances. Alda is also superb as a pompous TV producer. [15]

Film Review – ZELIG (1983)

Image result for zelig blu-rayZelig (1983; USA; B&W/DuArt; 79m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis; m. Dick Hyman.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Mary Louise Wilson, Sal Lomita, Michael Jeter, John Rothman, Marvin Chatinover, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter, Stanley Swerdlow, Paul Nevens, Howard Erskine, George Hamlin, Ralph Bell, Richard Whiting. “Documentary” about a man who can look and act like whoever he’s around, and meets various famous people. Technically brilliant and cleverly scripted this is one of Allen’s most original films. The actors are seamlessly blended into the archive footage through Willis’ superb cinematography. Allen’s absurdist wit shines through in this minor gem. [PG]

Film Review – CAFE SOCIETY (2016)

Café Society (2016; USA; Colour; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Vittorio Storaro; m. Stewart Lerman (supervisor).  Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell, Blake Lively, Parker Posey, Corey Stoll, Jeannie Berlin, Ken Stott, Anna Camp, Gregg Binkley, Paul Schneider, Sari Lennick, Stephen Kunken, Sheryl Lee. A young man from the Bronx falls in love with his Uncle’s secretary in Hollywood. He then returns to New York and runs a high society night club. Allen revisits familiar themes of happenstance, misguided relationships and regrets in this sumptuous period piece. There are no surprises in Allen’s screenplay, but it does have its humorous and poignant moments and is not lacking in charm. First-rate production design and gorgeous use of colour, to accentuate the glitz of Hollywood, are real standouts. First time that Allen has narrated a film without appearing on screen since RADIO DAYS (1987). [12]

Film Review – A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S SEX COMEDY (1982)

Image result for a midsummer night's sex comedy blu-rayMidsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, A (1982; USA; Technicolor; 88m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Gordon Willis.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Julie Hagerty, Mary Steenburgen, Tony Roberts, Michael Higgins, Timothy Jenkins, Adam Redfield, Moishe Rosenfeld, Sol Frieder, Boris Zoubok, Thomas Barbour, Kate McGregor-Stewart. A wacky inventor and his wife invite two other couples for a weekend party at a romantic summer house in the 1900s countryside. Allen explores themes of lust and love in this contrived and whimsical comedy interspersed with funny one-liners and visual gags. Sumptuously photographed country setting makes it a visual treat helping to overcome the narrative faults. Based on Ingmar Bergman’s SMILES OF A SUMMER NIGHT (1955), which also inspired Stephen Sondheim’s musical “A Little Night Music”. [15]

Film Review – HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (1986)

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986; USA; Technicolor; 103m) ∗∗∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Carlo Di Palma; m. Puccini.  Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Michael Caine, Carrie Fisher, Barbara Hershey, Maureen O’Sullivan, Dianne Wiest, Max von Sydow, Lloyd Nolan, Daniel Stern, Julie Kavner, Joanna Gleason, J.T. Walsh, John Turturro, Richard Jenkins. Between two Thanksgivings, Hannah’s husband falls in love with her sister Lee, while her hypochondriac ex-husband rekindles his relationship with her sister Holly. Brilliantly observed portrayal of the lives of three sisters, their relationship with each other and with the men in their lives is amongst Allen’s finest achievements. Sharp and witty script is enhanced by superb performances from the cast. It is a movie that presents its three-dimensional characters in a way that is utterly engaging and believable. Caine, Wiest and Allen (as writer) all won Oscars. [15]

Film Review – SCOOP (2006)

Scoop (2006; UK/USA; Technicolor; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Remi Adefarasin.  Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Hugh Jackman, Ian McShane, Woody Allen, Romola Garai, Kevin McNally, Jim Dunk, Geoff Bell, Christopher Fulford, Nigel Lindsay, Fenella Woolgar, Matt Day, Rupert Frazer. An American journalism student in London scoops a big story, and begins an affair with an aristocrat as the incident unfurls. Lightweight comedy mystery is one of Allen’s lesser works. Allen and Johansson spark well with Allen relishing his role as a cheesy magician. The mystery elements are less satisfying and not all the one-liners hit home, but it has just enough to make it an entertaining diversion. [12]

Film Review – BANANAS (1971)

Bananas (1971; USA; Colour; 82m) ∗∗∗½  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen, Mickey Rose; ph. Andrew M. Costikyan; m. Marvin Hamlisch.  Cast: Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, Miguel Angel Suarez, David Ortiz, Rene Enriquez, Jack Axelrod, Howard Cosell. When a bumbling New Yorker is dumped by his activist girlfriend, he travels to a tiny Latin American nation and becomes involved in its latest rebellion. The gags come fast and furious and as many miss the mark as hit the mark, but this is still a frequently funny satire inspired by the lunacy of the Marx Brothers and silent comedians. The “sports report” bookends of the assassination and the consummation are priceless. Watch for a very young Sylvester Stallone as a hoodlum. [15]

TV Review – CRISIS IN SIX SCENES (2016)

Crisis in Six Scenes (TVS) (2016; USA; Colour, 6 episodes; 140m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; pr. Helen Robin; exec pr. Erika Aronson; ph. Eigil Bryld.  Cast: Woody Allen, Elaine May, Miley Cyrus, John Magaro, Rachel Brosnahan, Michael Rappaport.  A comedy that takes place in the 1960’s during turbulent times in the United States and a middle class suburban family is visited by a guest who turns their household completely upside down. It is basically a movie into six episodes, which admittedly each progress the plot. Whilst not amongst Allen’s strongest work, it does raise some laughs and has moments that suggest he still has much to offer – notably the scenes with May’s marriage counsellor and her clients. It’s great to see Allen in front of the camera again too and he still has his comic timing. He and May spark well, if a little tentatively at times given their age. Cyrus is okay as militant revolutionary who takes over their household, but Magaro struggles to convey the academic won over by the activist. It’s all light, frothy fun – if a little forced – with the odd telling thing to say about passive and aggressive objectors. However, it only rarely captures the spirit of the times and often seems divorced from the world it describes – which may have been deliberate on Allen’s part to suggest how distanced the characters were from world’s events – merely catching up via TV. Edited down it would make a fairly decent movie.

Film Review – THE FRONT (1976)

Front, The (1976; USA; Metrocolor; 95m) ∗∗∗∗  d. Martin Ritt; w. Walter Bernstein; ph. Michael Chapman; m. Dave Grusin.  Cast: Woody Allen, Zero Mostel, Michael Murphy, Andrea Marcovicci, Herschel Bernardi, Remak Ramsay, Josef Sommer, Lloyd Gough, David Margulies, Danny Aiello, Marvin Lichterman, Joshua Shelley, Norman Rose, Charles Kimbrough, Georgann Johnson. A cashier poses as a writer for blacklisted talents to submit their work through, but the injustice around him pushes him to take a stand. Poignant, funny and sharply scripted commentary on the blacklisting of artists during the US’s communist witch-hunt of the 1950s. Allen gives his most assured performance to date as the front of the title. Several people involved in this film were themselves on the McCarthy-era blacklists. Last on-screen film project for Mostel. [12]

Film Review – IRRATIONAL MAN (2015)

Irrational Man (2015; USA; Technicolor; 96m) ∗∗∗  d. Woody Allen; w. Woody Allen; ph. Darius Khondji.  Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone, Jamie Blackley, Parker Posey, Ethan Phillips, Julie Ann Dawson, Mark Burzenski, Gary Wilmes, Geoff Schuppert, David Pittu, Steven Howitt, Kaitlyn Bouchard, Ana Marie Proulx, Kate McGonigle, Tamara Hickey. On a small town college campus, a philosophy professor in existential crisis gives his life new purpose when he enters into a relationship with his student. Enjoyment of this moral tale will depend on how much you buy into the flawed, self-centred characters Allen has created – although Stone, in particular, is excellent as the smitten college student. Cleverly woven as it may be, there is a certain artificiality about it that leaves a cold feeling despite its pay-off. [12]