Allen is absolutely flexing here – flouting narrative conventions and brimming with creativity
Gordon Willis’ work here from a photographical standpoint isn’t quite the achievement it is in The Godfather films or his work with Pakula – or certainly Manhattan with Allen two years later, but it’s a great governing balance throughout capturing both NYC and LA in the short segment—he does show off once during the post-dusk Brooklyn bridge scene – really beautiful
It’s an important film for Allen—influenced by European art cinema of the 50’s and 60’s- Fellini and Bergman (both heavy in the text) but not forgetting his comedic Marx Brothers’ influences either. The film is hilarious and filled with gags (the Cocaine sneeze could easily be from Bananas) throughout. Allen would build upon the art-house cinema influences for his future films including the subsequence film Interiors and then Manhattan the following year after. His previous directorial effort to Annie Hall in 1977 is the hilarious Love and Death in 1975—this is a major revolution
Keith Uhlich from Time Out—“This is the link between Allen’s “earlier, funnier” stuff and more probing works like Interiors and Manhattan. Would that we all could build such masterful bridges.”
Again—the narrative ingenuity—he starts with addressing the camera- reflexive narration throughout – this plays to Allen’s talents and experience as a standup comic. He gets insights from people on the street, his parents via flashback next to the child version of himself, kids in his old class—wild stuff
The playful nostalgia is absolutely Fellini’s Amarcord – growing up in Brooklyn under a roller coaster
Like most of Allen’s work the running time is tight- 93 minutes here—and we’re back to back throughout with ingenious sequences – the long tracking shot with Tony Roberts as they walk down the street
Hilarious lines about the French soldiers being really brave because they had to listen to Maurice Chevalier sing so much— Allen’s writing has rarely (Hannah, Crimes and Misdeamoners), if ever, been so good
The film is plotless essentially- just a tale of their relationship—but the narrative rolls. We have stream of consciousness flashbacks, the Marshall Mcluhan pop-in, the JFK conspiracy theory, the cartoon sequence (which reminded me of Tarantino’s anime in Kill Bill), the split screen of the dueling psychiatrist sessions and families, the creative genius of the subtitled dialogue exchange on the roof with Keaton, Allen using a play of his relationship within the film repeating dialogue (he gives it the happy ending he doesn’t give the film which is brilliant). There are more ideas here than in 10 other archiveable films from other directors.
It’s a shame I’ve gone on this long without praising Keaton’s work (her Oscar win and it’s justified). Allen is good as an actor here, he’s the same throughout the film- funny—the constant pessimism—but she has growth here and her performance must capture that. When she sings “It Had To Be You” there’s a lack of confidence in her voice (it helps that Allen’s direction does a bit of a Tati Playtime joke with the noises in the crowd). When she sings later she’s confident.
There are no small performances here in the ensemble- Christopher Walken with his oncoming traffic deadly serious monologue—haha. Shelley Duvall with the “transplendent” and calling sex with Allen “Kafkaesque”- jesus. Haha. Jeff Goldbloom “I forgot my mantra” moment. Nothing is thrown away here.
The photography is always there—the heavy shadows as they have a seen as simple as unpacking groceries
The ending is magnificent—Allen uses natural barriers to tell their story through shot choice and photography—they’re disconnected. This Antonioni’s L’Eclisse. The montage of their good times is a bit of a cheat but a wonderful one—and a reminder of all of the great moments in this 93 minute film—tragic as they part on the street nonchalantly for the finale