Woody Allen

By Stuart C and Corbin G

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Born Allen Stewart Konigsberg, Allen was born in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in a middle-class Jewish family, Allen grew into a comedian, performing all over New York and developing a neurotic persona. He became a hit at nightclubs all over, and eventually he was hired by prominent television comedians such as Sid Caesar and Art Carney to write material for them. Allen then wrote many plays and films beginning in 1965, and eventually directed and starred in many films. He currently has a very long resume, having directed a film every one or two years since 1972. Unfortunately, Allen became involved in a huge custody scandal, when he had an affair with the adopted daughter of Mia Farrow, with whom he was romantically involved with at the time.

Film Content & Themes

Allen's films usually reflected his own thoughts and ideas, which he conveyed on film using his neurotic death-obsessed persona. He usually cast Diane Keaton in his older films and explored relationships and life in general in the guise of romantic comedies, his humor mostly derived from his urban Jewish upbringing. He usually narrated his films using his neurotic character, giving the lives of his characters a running commentary. His films are known for their dialogue and the natural way that his characters interact. His most well-known films reflect this the best, including Play It Again Sam (1972), Love and Death (1975), Annie Hall (1977), and Manhattan (1979).

Into the 1980s, he became more experimental, trying for wider ranges of characters. He also began casting Mia Farrow in his films as opposed to Diane Keaton. His '80s films, such as Zelig (1983), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), blended realism with absurd humor, and were a bit lighter than his earlier, more personal work. In the 1990s, Allen made far less commercial films, using low budgets that attracted only his devout followers; they included Husbands and Wives (1992), Bullets over Broadway (1994), and Sweet and Lowdown (1999). He is still directing films, and into the 2000s, he began dropping his usual comedic style in favor of dark dramatic thrillers, the most notable of which was Match Point (2005).

Style / Vision

Stylistically, Allen focused primarily on the conversation between his characters, using primarily level camera angles. Allen also used very long takes in order to make his dialogue feel more real and natural, uninterrupted by excessive cuts. According to an article in Film Quarterly, when most films at the time had an average shot length (ASL) of only three to six seconds, Allen's films had ASLs that were as high as 35.5 seconds. This more mundane and less intense style put more emphasis on the simple narrative of his films, drawing the audience in more by the substance of his characters than by the visual dramatic appeal that most directors relied on. As a result of this more conservative style of direction that lacked rapid cutting, Allen's films usually consist of only medium shots and long shots, with very few close-ups. Strange that Allen puts so much emphasis on the inner thoughts of his characters, though he rarely used a close-up on them, which is most frequently used for getting inside the mind of the characters.

Annie Hall Analysis

I found Annie Hall to be a very fascinating character study, reminding me a lot of Jake La Matta from Raging Bull.Alvy Singer simultaneously obsesses over external image AnnieHall_300x298.jpg Annie only to belittle her and demand perfection from her. I find it impressive that the vague Groucho Marx joke, 'I would not belong to any club that would have me as a member', makes perfect sense within the context of the story. The film is the essential Allen film, making use of the narrator, long takes, and explorations into love through the eyes of Allen's neurotic pessimist persona. I find that a lot of the absurd side-jokes that make no sense within the established reality of the movie do a lot to deepen the characters. A good example is how Singer's wish to introduce McLuhan to the snob standing behind him in line perfectly brings out facets of his character, such as his tendency to be easily annoyed, his looking for easy answers, and his overall disgust with the people around him. What I primarily loved about the film was the dialogue. The conversations are filled with cultural references, naturally arising quips and snide remarks, and they are so enjoyable to listen to. Also, I found it interesting how non-linear the film felt. There were constant cuts to his past life and his other relationships, switching back and forth between his first meeting of Annie to the couple's current status. I had to piece a lot together to understand why things were the way they were, and I think it benefited the film in that the viewer is constantly getting bombarded with important information about the characters, even if that information doesn't have any chronological basis. By the end of the film, even though it didn't work out for Alvy, I feel the film concluded very well in Alvy's monologue about the sheer insanity of relationships. It's a clever choice of Allen to adopt the insanity of relationships into his sporadic directing style for the movie.

Major Films & Awards

  • Annie Hall (1977)- Won four Oscars- Best Picture, Best Leading Actress, Best Director, and Best Screenplay / Nominated for one Oscar- Best Leading Actor
  • Interiors (1978)- Nominated for five Oscars- Best Leading Actress, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Screenplay
  • Manhattan (1979)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay
  • Zelig (1983)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design
  • Broadway Danny Rose (1984)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Director, Best Screenplay
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)- Nominated for one Oscar- Best Screenplay
  • Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)- Won three Oscars- Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Screenplay / Nominated for four Oscars- Best Art Direction, Best Director, Best Film Editing, Best Picture
  • Radio Days (1987)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Art Direction, Best Screenplay
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)- Nominated for three Oscars- Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Screenplay
  • Alice (1990)- Nominated for one Oscar- Best Screenplay
  • Husbands and Wives (1992)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Suporting Actress, Best Screenplay
  • Bullets Over Broadway (1994)- Won one Oscar- Best Supporting Actress
  • Mighty Aphrodite (1995)- Won one Oscar- Best Supporting Actress / Nominated for one Oscar- Best Screenplay
  • Deconstructing Harry (1997)- Nominated for one Oscar- Best Screenplay
  • Sweet and Lowdown (1999)- Nominated for two Oscars- Best Leading Actor, Best Supporting Actress
  • Match Point (2005)- Nominated for one Oscars- Best Screenplay

Classic Woody Allen Film Moments

Manhattan Opening

Annie Hall Trailer

Sources / Links

Encyclopedia Britannica: Allen, Woody, 2008.
Ebsco Host: Hutchinson's Biography Database, 2003.
Ebsco Host: Boman, John. Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, 2001.
JSTOR: Bordwell, David. Film Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Spring, 2002), pp. 16-28
International Movie Database

Image Sources


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