Throughout his career Woody Allen was able to churn out refined and masterful films, works on the immediate capacity that the audiovisual has to enclose with extreme simplicity and a pointillist precision all the evocative magic and romantic lyricism of the stories of man, his defects, his loves and his frailties. All while standing with the diligence of a soldier at attention at the crossroads where realism, fantasy, authorship and industry meet.
Before today’s ostracism blocked him, in fact, since 1966 Allen has managed to maintain a near-perfect average of a film a year: Rifkin’s Festival, out this week, goes down in history as the 50th feature film (counting New York Stories) of what is one of the most significant actors, directors and above all screenwriters of the 20th century (still holds the record for the highest number of nominations received in the Best Original Screenplay category, 16, with 3 wins).
With the status of the most European author in Hollywood, a lover of Federico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman, he tackled the most disparate genres by adapting them to his theatrical, sophisticated and unique style: here are five Woody Allen films to rediscover while waiting for Rifkin’s Festival.
Love and war
A strange costume film set during the Napoleon era, so far from the streets of New York that they would have made the fortune of subsequent films but also diametrically opposite to the slapstick works of the early career years, Love and War is Woody Allen’s first step towards verbal cinema which would have marked a large part of his production.
In the story of Boris Grushenko, the third of three brothers and the most fearful and awkward (and obviously intellectual) among them, the director-screenwriter-actor enjoys wink at Ingmar Bergman’s cinema, to that of Eisenstein and to the literature of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, creating a work full of unforgettable jokes (“Sex is the funniest thing I’ve done without laughing!”) and complex, centered on the many aspects of life and its ambivalences.
In a mix between the atmospheres of Alfred Hitchcock and the ironic-philosophical ones a la Woody Allen (which the protagonist, not surprisingly a philosopher but very cynical and contemptuous, laughs at as “verbal masturbation”) with Irrational Man the author releases his unique touch to create a refined and fun romantic neo-noir, a sort of summa between the moral tragedy of Crimes and Misdemeanors and the disenchanted nihilism of Match Point.
The chemistry between Emma Stone and Joaquin Phoenix bow the brilliant dialogues and situations masterfully orchestrated by the pen and the director’s room, always attentive to the intertwining and their unpredictable implications.
Hannah and her sisters
Among the best men ever to write women, Woody Allen nine years after Me and Annie returns to the charge with Hannah and Her Sisters: centered on the lives, doubts, strengths and many thoughts of Hannah, Lee and Holly, played by Mia Farrow, Barbara Herhsey and Dianne Wiest, the story of the film is the troubled and daring one of the loves and subterfuges that mark Hannah’s marriage with Elliot (Michael Caine) and is the emblem of comedy in drama and drama in comedy, which distinguishes the author’s hypertext.
Awarded with three Oscars (for screenplay, Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest as supporting characters) also includes one of the highlights of Allen’s filmography, that circular roundup at the restaurant that will be mentioned in The Hyenas and in Grindhouse – Death Proof by Quentin Tarantino, another author who knows how to write and make women talk in the cinema.
The 2016 film with Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Steve Carell e Blake Lively stands out for several firsts in Woody Allen’s career.
In addition to being his first digital film, in fact, it is also the first collaboration with the director of photography Vittorio Storaro, who will directly contribute to instilling in Allen’s direction some unprecedented virtuosity (such as daring camera movements or particular plays of lights and colors ) which will also be found in the director’s subsequent films (Storaro will also be present in The wheel of wonders, A rainy day in New York it’s the same Rifkin’s Festival).
Café Society therefore opens up a real new trend in Allen’s production, of which it boasts all the trappings (such as the double-games of love within the same family unit) and also a formal elegance that goes hand in hand with that of the glittering setting of the Hollywood of the 30s.
The purple rose of Cairo
Rifkin’s Festival is part of that “cinema on cinema” trend that Woody Allen has gladly visited throughout his career. Already with Stardust Memories, Celebrity e Hollywood Ending, just to name a few, the author had told of the fame and the sense of adoration that it can arouse towards those who own it, while offering the perfect portrait of the imperfect artist.
With La Rosa purpurea del Cairo Allen puts himself on the other side of the screen – literally – to frame the dreams of celebrities from the point of view of those who have none, a young woman in love with cinema. The work of 1985 also perfectly encapsulates a whole other line of Allen’s cinema, that of “magical realism”, which would have returned with dazzling Midnight in Paris, another title awarded with the Oscar.