There have been so many great Woody Allen films over the decade, I decided to have a look back through his catalouge and choose my favourite Allen frilm from each decade. Now, this might not necessarily correspend with the ones I think are the best, but these are my favourites.
This is an easy decade as he was beginning the transition from TV to film and so didn’t make that many movies.
Going right for the borderline, I’m going with his 1969 directorial debut Take The Money And Run.
Ridiculously comic affair, it is essentially a string of funny moments stuck together. But what funny moments! Allen takes the lead role as failed career criminal Virgil Starkwell in what is one of the biggest deviations from the traditional “Allen” role (ie not very).
OK, now things start to get a big tricky.
The 1970s were undoubtedly the Allen glory days. A great number of his most beloved and funniest movies are contained in this single decade. Annie Hall, Manhattan, Bananas, Sleeper and more could be chosen for this particular decade.
I was tempted to go for Play It Again, Sam which was the movie that got me into the world of Woody Allen, but as it wasn’t directed by him I’m going to go for something else.
Love and Death sees Allen play Boris, a Russian peasant reluctantly conscripted to fight the French invading forces. In love with his cousin, Sonja (played by Diane Keaton), he agrees to try and assassinate Napoleon.
This is a great film because it acts as a bridge between the goofball comedies of the early 70s, with the more considered films of the late 70s. Right after this he made Annie Hall. He also uses it to dive further into his intellectual interests, with references and themes from the greats of Russian literature placed with ease and hilarity.
Another brilliant decade.
Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Radio Days, finally culminating in Crimes and Misdemeanours. This was a great decade where Mia Farrow was a serious driving force and inspiration, starring in nine of the ten full-length movies he made in the 80s (not including the “Oedipus Wrecks” segment for New York Stories). All brilliant films, yet I’m going for the only one without her in.
Stardust Memories opens the decade and sees Allen in a somewhat more reflective mood. Mirroring his career, Allen plays Sandy Bates a film-maker who is having a film retrospective thrown in his honour. Yet all is not well. He has moved on to making deeply depressing, serious films, yet his audience still want the early, funnier films.
The whole piece is a homage to Fellini and shot in black and white. It mixes the real with the surreal and the serious with the comedic. It is both funny and meditative and a great mix of both worlds Allen inhabits.
Slated by critics taking it too personally at the time, it is one of Allen’s finest films and still unfairly overlooked and maligned.
This is a somewhat uneven decade, though not as bad as people would suggest.
Starting with the weakest Mia Farrow movie, the twee magical fantasy, Alice, and containing the largely pointless retread, Celebrity, it nevertheless has some great moments. Husbands and Wives is an excellent meditation on marriage and divorce, whilst the period pieces Bullets Over Broadway and Sweetdown and Low are particular highlights. There is even a musical, in Everyone Says I Love You.
Yet it is Deconstructing Harry which takes the top spot for me.
Whilst on the surface it is Allen playing another struggling writer, it takes a far more adult tone than any of his other pictures. In fact, this is one of three films to get an 18-certificate rating (the others being Crimes and Misdemeanours and Celebrity). It contains a number of vignettes and a hilarious main plot.
The Allen character in this film is far more unpleasant than any we have seen before, being essentially downright horrible.
This was a bit of a weak decade, at least initially. The first five films of the decade are disposable. Aside from The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (which would have benefitted from someone other than Allen playing the lead role) and Melinda and Melinda (which has a really interesting premise) there isn’t much to see here. Then Match Point came out and everyone loved him again as he began his tour across Europe.
Yet it is his late in the decade New York comedy that wins out here.
Whatever Works is a play from the 1970s brought up to date due to the restrictions of the writers strike. Larry David plays a crazy genius, Boris, who is obsessed with the pointlessness of existence.
This was again looked upon somewhat unfavourably, though personally I can’t imagine a better Allen stand-in than the utterly fantastic Larry David. I found this to be a very funny movie and hope the two can team up again sometime in the future.
This is the most difficult decade to choose from, not least because it hasn’t been a full decade.
It doesn’t help that of the three films of this decade, I’ve only seen two of them. Add to that the fact that You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger is one of the weakest movies Allen has ever and there is really no choice at all.
Midnight In Paris is one of the most acclaimed and successful films he has made for a long time. It has an amusing idea and some the historical figures are performed in a hilarious manner. Yet this is still default for me, because whilst I like Owen Wilson in small does, having him front the entire movie was far too much to cope with.
I suspect I may prefer To Rome With Love, but can’t include it as I’ve not yet seen it.