Watched Jun 29, 2012
Ronan Doyle’s review:
I don't care what Allen says, this is an autobiographical film. For goodness' sake, the man considers Manhattan to be one of his worst movies, clearly he doesn't get his own work. Like Stardust Memories and Bullets Over Broadway before it, it's a story that investigates the relationship of an artist to his work and to its audience, calling in to question whether something is owed to the fiction itself, to those who enjoy it, or just to the creative process. I've read that this film is essentially the last great Allen film, that most everything to follow it has been sub-standard fare. I won't be surprised to find that true; there is a sense here of finality, the touch of a creative genius essentially summating his career, reviewing the fruit of his labours, and wondering what the hell it all amounts to anyway. Each and every great thematic and structural idea thus far explored in Allen's oeuvre here reappears, whether as a major narrative concept or as a minor concern. There is the episodic, sketch-like aspect of his earliest works, the serious Bergmanesque theatricality of his dramatic efforts, the searing bitterness of the likes of Husbands and Wives and Crimes and Misdemeanors. It's a film that addresses not just everything Woody's work had to that point explored, but also the process of exploration itself; it looks not just at the grand themes of life, but also at the looking, and at the looking at the looking. It's a work of extraordinary complexity, as much about itself as it is about anything else. What struck me most of all though? Allen's character. Long has he been criticised for just playing himself over and over—why shouldn't he, he's really good at it—so here he changes suit drastically, becoming infinitely more embittered and aggressive. When he spouts words like "fuck" and "cunt", you feel their intensity because this is Woody Allen saying them. I think it must be his finest hour as an actor, both playing against type and ticking the boxes of expectation in such a way that you can form further ties between this, his prior work, and his own personal life. Easily one of the man's most accomplished, comprehensive, and excellent works, this might even end up my favourite of his somewhere down the line. What a masterpiece.