Django (1966), Masculinity, and ‘The Man With No Name’.

Django.

Django (1966) is an Italian western directed by Sergio Carbucci. It stars Franco Nero as mysterious ex-soldier Django on his quest to seek revenge for his dead wife. Thus, he returns to the south, where a war rages, but not the civil war. A racial war wages between that of the native Mexican people, and the southern forces. Colonel Jackson and his red-hooded riders seek to rid the land of the Mexicans, while the Mexicans pledge the same. Django is not concerned at first, but is caught in the war as he opts to save Maria, a scorned prostitute from death as some of Jackson’s men attempt to burn her alive.

A remarkably similar font appears in Django Unchained (2012)

A remarkably similar font appears in Django Unchained (2012)

Django is not overly significant for it’s narrative, while the idea of a racial war is definitely an original one in the context of a western. The significance is how it’s formed, the tones, atmosphere and mood of Django are what classifies it as something different and ultimately very appealing. On set as they attempted to film Sergio’s set manager claimed they should clean up the set they intended to film on because of harsh mud, and swamp due to weather conditions, however Sergio claimed it would only improve the harsh macabre mood of the film. The town is unlike most you’ve ever seen in a western, empty, deserted and decrepit. Only the home to whores and murderers, the lighting is always fairly grey and dark to suit this bleak depiction of life, and we never see the sun rise or set over the town. Only a malignant, disconcerting grey.

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It’s also a stand-out for being one of the most violent films ever made at the time of it’s release, though obviously the same can’t be said now in the advent of gorehouse, and tortureporn flicks.Where Django offers a lot of analytical depth is in the reading of it’s primary protagonist Django. Django a fairly atypical male character in juxtaposition of typical western males. The blueprint for traditional western leading males were primarily in the wake of John Wayne and such others, usually an older man of larger stature and of rugged qualities and typical macho or of manly disposition, being the contextual modern idea of what a man should be. However, as the western was gradually converted and subverted in much more opposing forms such as the Revisionist, and Acid western sub-genres (Both of which Django is a part of), we see this ideal of the leading male and masculinity questioned. 

The cowardly racist southerners under a hail of machine gun fire.

The cowardly racist southerners under a hail of machine gun fire.

Django is ultimately a revision of that stereotypical gender role. He’s a much younger man but also much more troubled, enigmatic, and mysterious in his purpose.You could say there are elements of the tragic hero in Django’s construction, particularly in his mourning for his wife, and his inability to love again. Greed is Django’s near downfall as he has both of his hands brutally broken for stealing the gold he and the Mexicans worked so hard to get. Thus he also flawed in his ideology, he is not the traditional do-gooder, but one who has sinned and will continue to sin. This is equally said for his unrelenting brutality in gaining his revenge, most notably in the scene in which he harshly mows down all but a few of Colonel Jackson’s men with his heavy machine gun. In addition the casting of Django and characters like him are typically more attractive and more handsome contrasting to older actors. This was certainly the case for Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s films as ‘The Man with No Name’. 

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Thus this new kind of character that stemmed from the grittier, more violent revisionist westerns became intensely popular. For example, the character of Django appears in over 30 additional films since the original appearance due to the sheer amount of filmmakers wanting to replicate the success and iconography of Django. Franco Nero only played the role once more since his original portrayal in the official sequel made in the 80’s. But the general look and iconography of the character remained. However, Django still remains a prominent factor in popular culture even now with many elements of the film being referenced to in Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained (2012). In particular it uses the two tracks from the film’s score, the stylized title card and the name of the film’s main protagonist. Franco Nero also appears in a very tongue in cheek cameo, in a kind of passing of the mantle to Jamie Foxx. 

The new Django, next to old.

The new Django, next to old.

Thus Django is a very significant piece of Italian and Western film culture. It stands for the changing of the guard in the genre, and also it begins to show the slowly turning wheels of the evolution of cinema from the neo-classical, towards the new contemporary with it’s emphasis on characters and style over traditional narrative. As an icon I do consider the coffin dragging ex-soldier a part of significant film culture, and for those who haven’t seen Django I would strongly recommend it. That’s it for today, and thanks for stopping by, and feel free to follow me on Twitter @Sams_Reel_Views.

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen; Part 7: Manhattan (1979)

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Manhattan is a silky yet mournful film noir inspired tale of romance and regret. Filmed entirely in black and white, and with elements of classical and jazz the film is quite reflexive in it’s moods, as we see recurring hints of Ingmar Bergman once again. It’s partly autobiographical in nature, recapturing Allen’s experience dating a 17 year old student as a real life experience on film. Other than that, we see the same motifs and ideals revisited mainly about life and love but in a slightly darker context. The black and white, and the noirish feel relates to the film being quite involved in the idea of being faithful with a sinful affair and numerous deceptions occurring within it’s frame. This all relates to classical cinema, with it’s drama frequently featuring cheating wives and lying husbands, with love and betrayal being a prominent feature in Federico Fellini’s work, often cited as a big inspiration for Allen.vlcsnap-2013-05-23-11h54m54s235

Isaac (Woody Allen) is a TV writer, and aspiring author suffering two failed marriages (Also the case with Allan himself) who feels self conscious about a relationship with a 17 year old girl named Tracy (Mariel Hemingway). Meanwhile his friend Yale (Michael Murphy) starts to cheat on his faithful wife of 12 years, with the alluringly neurotic Mary (Diane Keaton). Mary is kind of the polarizing character of the piece, upsetting the status quo of Yale’s marriage, as well as Isaac’s relationship with Tracy. She mirrors a kind of femme fatale character, not in the same kind of sense of mortal danger but a more subdued form, that of the homewrecker. Yale breaks up with Mary, only to find himself lusting after her even after setting up Isaac to be with Mary. They begin to see each other again, as Isaac realizes what a mistake he’s made as he goes to Tracy and tells her he did wrong. However the apology is ultimately too late as she leaves to London for an arts scholarship. 

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Manhattan is aptly named, full of looming shots of the landscape, Manhattan is a story about first world problems, a failed romance tale of the inner city. It’s billed as a comedy though the only real comedic value is found in Allen’s dialogue and nervous mannerisms as usual. Other than that Manhattan is a story firmly grounded in matters of the heart as opposed to elements of humor. Allan describes it as a combination of his previous two films Annie Hall (1977) and Interiors (1978) which is pretty accurate. It has the love and loss in a contemporary setting from Annie Hall, with the rather serious tones of stress, psychosis, and longing for purpose that Interiors encapsulates. Meryl Streep as scorned ex-wife Jill packs a punch, as she publishes a book detailing her failed marriage and how she ran off into the arms of a much superior female. 

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And with that, we approach one of the main underline themes of Manhattan. Freude is mentioned on quite a few occasions, and in that same vein of psychoanalysis Manhattan seems to contain a slight fear of emasculation. Women are seemingly well fulfilled within the frames of Manhattan, while the male characters are left confused and longing in fear they’ve made the wrong choice. Isaac has an overwhelming fear of the book Jill publishes, a fear of this power over him, particularly disheartened when she dishonorably mentions the lackluster sex and emotional connection within it’s pages. Mary is a sexual aggressor breaking up a marriage and a relationship, while forcing former friends to ultimately fight over her. In addition to this, before their break up it seems Yale’s wife often mentioned the notion of kids and how she wanted to have them. In this way the power in relationships is predominantly held by women, which particularly makes contextual sense in it’s homage to more classical cinema. 

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In it’s place in Allen’s overall filmography, Manhattan further cements Allen’s love of smooth and classical Jazz, the films of Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, and the acting talents of Diane Keaton. However, foresight tells us it’d be the last major collaboration Woody Allen would do with Diane Keaton. Allen is smart in only casting women he has sexual chemistry with (He and Keaton dated for a year or so), and she would be soon replaced by Mia Farrow as Allen’s main female actor given their relationship which lasted from the early 80’s til the mid 90’s. At this point it can be said that Allen had moved away from the situational comedy genre, and cemented himself in more of an artistic more classical form of the romance film. Regardless of his spurning of the Academy with Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan would still be nominated for two awards, one for best original screenplay, and one for best supporting actress (Mariel Hemingway). In addition to winning the Baftas for best film, and best screenplay, and about 8 or so other nominations.

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Manhattan is a good film, and ultimately a clear display that romantic comedies don’t have to be shallow in content or emotion, or haplessly generic and dull. It feels absurdly textured with its artistic shots, and its highly nostalgic tones and is good storytelling at the crux of it. Next time we’ll take a look at A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). Thanks for tuning in, and please Follow/Comment/and Like if you feel inclined. Also follow me on @Sams_Reel_Views on Twitter. Cheers. 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen; Part 8: Stardust Memories (1980)

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I seem to have completely forgotten about Manhattan somehow, so i’ll do Part 8 now then go back for it next time. For now we’ll look at black and white comedic drama Stardust Memories (1980), of course directed by Woody Allen. Something we immediately notice is Diane Keaton not being cast on this one given their great chemistry, and Allen’s understanding of her strengths and weaknesses as an actor. However, it makes sense considering she doesn’t have the sheer visceral, tragic, or psycho-sexual qualities like Charlotte Rampling, not that many actresses do. Stardust Memories is infamous for splitting Allen’s audience, some thinking it’s his best picture, others his worst. It very much feels like a turning point, an evolution in his style, the potent rejection of his earlier films and audience. On that note, let’s dive right in.

Bates surrounded by his adoring audience.

Bates surrounded by his adoring audience.

The narrative involves filmmaker Sandy Bates (Woody Allen) as he attends a film festival, days of viewing purely devoted to his work. Shortly after departing the narrative dissolves in terms of time and space, and inter-cuts heavily between many of his relationships, his time at the festival, and his negotiations with producers in order to keep the ending of his newest film and not have it altered. Ultimately Stardust Memories is a film about it’s themes, linked together by some thin story line structure as opposed to traditional storytelling. A lot of the cinema-based segments revolve around his audience, being tormented as the line recurs ‘I always preferred your earlier, funnier movies’ spurning his more artistic efforts. Meanwhile he is lost in thought regarding his relationships, unable to decide between the intellectual and mousy musician Daisy (Jessica Harper) or maternal French mother of two Isobel (Marie-Christine Barrault). Meanwhile he is constantly haunted by images of the extremely sexual, and psychotic Dorrie (Charlotte Rampling). Meanwhile the real audience is left to wade through, and decide what is part of his metadiagetic films, or part of the character’s life as everything gradually begins to dissolve.

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Stardust Memories is a very artistic, very self-indulgent, post-modern piece of cinema. On it’s critical reaction many saw the immediate likeliness to Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2 (1962) as Fellini is often cited as a big inspiration to Allen. However it’s thought by many to be incredibly biographical. Both of the characters are filmmakers, and obviously there’s the link to Allen’s earlier ‘earlier, funnier’ films given the huge following Bananas (1971) and such had in comparison to his artistic fare like Interiors (1978). I think Stardust is a celebration of Allen’s cinematic talent, the talent he’s afraid to really bare in indulgence, afraid to pay homage and tribute to the directors that molded his own true style behind the slapstick and wit (such as Fellini and Bergman).  Following his films this far it could be said he’s afraid to stop being a comedian especially when his attempt with Interiors was fairly misunderstood. Meanwhile in the background we see this pondering of relationships, and different women. People liken this to Allen’s very vivid romantic life as well, given his multiple marriages, and focus on love and relationships in his films.

The oddly menacing last still of the film.

The oddly menacing last still of the film.

So regardless of Stardust Memories’s ambigious artistic style, it’s quite an entertaining film. It treats its self as a comedy film, but ultimately it’s not that funny, however I don’t really feel it’s meant to be. And in that, is part of the joke, with the pandering to audiences wanting Allen’s ‘funnier’ films with this subversion of what Allen finds funny in dire contrast. However that being said, I’d say Stardust Memories is mainly for film purists as it’s exploring the tropes and questioning Allen’s real directorial style both figuratively and literally and I can’t see many mainstream audiences interacting with that idea, or humoring it. Also out of context I think you’d miss a lot, I found a lot of intrigue in Stardust Memories due to it’s self-referential style with deep parody and reference to Allen’s career. As a side-note Charlotte Rampling as the lingering ex-girlfriend Dorrie was fantastic, close to stealing the spotlight with her sexuality and alluring nature, contrasted to her mysterious psychotic nature which seemingly interchange at will.

In summary: I think Stardust Memories marks the evolution of Allen’s style, or at least a change in moods in regards to the mainstream and it’s audience. It’s a comedy film that’s bogged down by serious thought, and pondering which is a much more relevant cause ultimately. While I don’t think it necessarily matters, I think the film bears a far too striking resemblance to Allen’s life and career for it to not be about him, or at least loosely based on his exploits. Stardust Memories is am ambitious film, but it achieves what it aims, and it’s certainly an in-depth look into Allen’s psyche. It’s probably my favourite film of his so far, edging just ahead of Annie Hall. Anyway, that’s it for this time. Follow/Like/Comment if you feel inclined, and follow me @Sams_Reel_Views on Twitter. 

Cheers! 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen; Part 6, Interiors (1978)


Interiors

Interiors (1978) is an American drama film, directed by Woody Allen. The sixth film of his I’ve covered in this series. From immediate impressions, it’s a huge departure from anything we’ve seen before. You could say Annie Hall, and his boycott of the Oscars that year showed he was moving towards a much more serious direction, instead of the satire, the slapstick. The humor is surprisingly nowhere to be found in Interiors, and more surprisingly, Woody Allen isn’t in this one. My initial first look at Interiors before I sat down and watched it weeks later, was that it was somewhat of a domestic drama, headed in a much more artistic direction than Bananas (1971) and the like, however, as deep and poetic as Interiors maybe, I felt it had something missing. 

Often stressed, and successful Writer Renata (Diane Keaton)

Often stressed, and successful Writer Renata (Diane Keaton)

Interiors is about a family as two parents go through a trial separation  until finally the husband demands a full divorce and introduces his new wife to his three daughters, the narrative focuses highly on the three daughters and their reaction to this, and how they cope. The mother (Geraldine Page) is incredibly overbearing, and tries to force her ways on her husband and her children, as we discover she’s fairly neurotic through the course of the story, and is ultimately unable to live without her husband (E.G Marshall). Renata (Diane Keaton) is the oldest of the three sisters, and harbors some responsibility, a lot of the tension from the film comes between her, and her husband Frederick (Richard Jordan). Renata is a successful writer, but Frederick feels he is unable to live up to her standards and grows to resent her. Meanwhile Joey (Mary Beth Hurt) is floundering in life, and is unable to find her purpose, or a job that suits her, she is strongly attached to her mother even though ultimately her mother rejects her, and prefers Renata for her artistic merits. Third sister Flyn (Kristin Griffith) is a relatively successful actor and model, yet relatively dim as is the subject of jealousy from Renata and Joey as she flutters and blushes for their spouses amusement. 

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Interiors is definitely an expressionist film, highly focused around families, dynamics, and how we interact with one another. Woody Allen identifies the film himself as an homage to Ingmar Bergman, and it shows. The film it’s self has many elements of realism, and naturalism, with virtually no score throughout the film, which preserves emotion and makes you focus on performance. Akin to Annie Hall (1977) Allen uses cuts to juxtapose scenes of varying emotions showing characters in their varying moods which makes them feel remarkably human, seeing Renata and and Frederick perfectly happy in one scene for example, and soon a cut shows them arguing and very malcontent. The film is very dark, I assume not much lighting has been used as to try and capture that kind of danish naturalism Allens paying homage to in this film. I’d be lying if I said a lot of the film wasn’t very samey, and we basically live out the same arguments with several different characters, but there are some very potent scenes. One of which occurs at the end, in which eve the neurotic mother decides she finally can’t cope being alone, as she walks into the sea. Her daughter Joey attempts to save her, only to be dragged back by her husband to stop her from drowning, during this we see intercut shots of the other daughters and the ex-husband sleeping. Quite a potent metaphor showing they’re done caring for her, and they’ve basically accepted this, signified by their passive sleeping. 

The floundering and purposeless, Joey.

The floundering and purposeless, Joey.

The performances are pretty potent, however no one’s really given a great chance to shine given that the naturalistic style doesn’t bode well for high drama, as it tries to preserve human emotion, as opposed to theatrical emotion. Overall, there are elements of Allen’s style still evident here, in particular it definitely shows his understanding of the cinematic elements more than his other films. Interiors definitely isn’t as interesting, witty, or satirical it does show directorial talent. For those interested in personal human drama, it’s worth a watch, if not it’s probably a bit bland, and leaves a bitter taste on the tongue.

A death in the family.

A death in the family.

Summary: Interesting, but not entertaining. Woody Allen’s 6th film, Interiors is based on family dynamics, and human interaction. Particularly those who are artistically inclined, however while it does show directorial talent and performance, the film is very naturalistic which at times can be quite dull or otherwise quite uncharacteristic, especially for an aesthetic film lover like myself. Regardless, Interiors is at least interesting if nothing else, and I’ll continue with Stardust Memories, next time, on Greatest Directors. Follow me on Twittor @Sams_Reel_Views. 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen, Part 5: Annie Hall (1977)

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Hello people, this is Part 5 of my Greatest Directors series, in particular focusing on incredibly seminal satirical comedy auteur Woody Allen. After trawling through some of the film’s that started Woody Allen’s career, finally we reach a real turning point in his career, 6 years down from his first solo Directing debut Bananas (1971) we take a look at the film that got critical acclaim for Allen, the one that put him on the map so to speak. At least for a little while, I can’t really judge this is all written as I discover it. So, Annie Hall (1977) is a satirical comedy, starring Woody Allen himself in the title role, along side Diane Keaton. This is an important thing to mention, as together they star in this, and Woody’s preceding 2 films, and Play it Again, Sam (1972), as a result by the time Annie Hall’s released quite a serious romantic drama, the chemistry is really solidified, it feels as if they’re reading off the script a lot of time, and Diane Keaton and Woody Allen are only good actors, not fantastic so the real chemistry between the two characters in Annie Hall is nice to see.

Alvy Singer reliving his childhood days.

Alvy Singer reliving his childhood days.

The narrative follows Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) as he recounts his romance and time spent with Photographer and singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). It’s sort of a recount, as the first shot we get is Alvy addressing the audience in close-up, talking about how he’s had many marriages but his romance with Annie Hall reigns above the others, and how he can’t stop thinking about it as he recounts the story. The story’s told in vague chronological order, but has flashbacks to kind of flesh-out the characters showing numerous stages in their relationship. Showing as their an established couple with problems first, flashing back to how they first met, and how they grew from then on, inevitably building until they part ways, and remain friends. The use of shifting the chronology, but using it logically to really contrast different points in the relationship, like the early loving stage, the routine, the break-up is really effective, and relate-able to the relationships we’ve all been in. At points it also has split-shots for example contrasting Alvy and Annie’s families, or contrasting how Alvy once believed school was important, and then denouncing it as a joke, the ultimate statement that people change constantly. The real effectiveness comes at the end of the story, when the storytelling makes you realize that the two characters we once knew are now completely contrasting people.

Use of the split  juxtaposition shot I mention.

Use of the split juxtaposition shot I mention.

The humor in Annie Hall is slightly different from the medium he’s established in the 4 films I’ve watched prior to this of his, and at the point I last reviewed Love and Death I thought of it as incredibly formulaic.  There isn’t as much stupid slapstick, him being strangled by a hose, his weapons disassembling in his hands, slip-slapping around being all funny-like, it’s very much a serious tone, for a movie that has serious moments mixed with some really smart, high-brow literary gags as opposed to the latter audiences were probably used to. In addition there’s a lot of moments where he just takes the audience to the side, and talks to them, adding to what’s happening in the scene which really adds a characteristic to the narrator of the story, makes it feel unique and personal which is odd really. It feels personal even though he’s addressing the audience which usually breaks any idea of theatrical elements, however Woody Allen on screen is always a likable character and it’s hard to not think of him as a friend when he addresses you in such in a jovial fashion.

Alvy and Diane 'Wicked witch of the west' Keaton.

Alvy and Diane ‘Wicked witch of the west’ Keaton.

Annie Hall was certainly praised at that year’s oscars gaining 4 awards in total, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and of course Best Actress for miss Diane Keaton. Thing is, Annie Hall certainly doesn’t feel like a best picture film, if anyone understands what I mean by this. I think it’s because it took a very dull genre that hadn’t been explored incredibly well by that point in time (Romantic Comedy) and gave it depth, gave it cinematic insight on many levels with two characters that felt unmistakably human.  That’s really a hard sell in the genre, giving you a man and a woman, a romance that’s believable, and ultimately flawed because that’s what hooks audiences in, I mean sure some people do just want the happy ending ala Tim Robbins in The Player (1992), but every stage felt incredibly real, and the dialogue was at a level of Allen’s humor where it was still witty, satirical, and pulled off 3rd wall gags, but it still maintained the overall pace and composure of the film. Compared to Sleeper, or Love and Death where it just got awfully tedious towards the end, and kind of forgot themselves as films.

OH MY GOD IT'S JEFF GOLDBLUM.

OH MY GOD IT’S JEFF GOLDBLUM.

As for Allen, seeing Bananas, Love and Death, the absurdly long one about sex, and Sleeper, I’m not entirely surprised to see a really well-written, well thought out film like Annie Hall in his filmography. He certainly had the potential, and the knowledge of the cinematic elements given his heavy use of homage and reference. However, it makes me incredibly curious to see what happens next with Interiors (1978) given a lot of things I’ve read about it bill it as ‘Ill received’, or ‘imperfect’ and some jargon about it being rushed, and incredibly confused. A lot of people regard Annie Hall as the peak of Allan’s career, some judge it as a turning point. Needless, I look forward as always as I leave you now with often praised scene with an odd cameo from Film and Communications critic Marshall McLuhan. Until next time, you can follow me on Twittor @Sams_Reel_Views  and I would appreciate it if you like/follow/comment if you like what you saw. Adios!

Imdb Addendum:

Annie Hall (1977) is a satirical romantic comedy from witty auteur Woody Allen. The film feels like a last hurrah in some ways, given his filmography and the very artistic direction he took following the success of Annie Hall. The film follows a comedian who recalls one of the greatest loves of his life, and how he fears he may never be able to forget her. Woody Allen stars as his comedic persona once again, alongside long time collaborator Diane Keaton. The story is told in a very vivid, and complex way as to make it feel a lot more fluid and snappy as opposed to melodramatic. I’m not so certain about Annie Hall’s conclusion in the Top 250. I can see it’s appeal, and how it it’s kind of the pinnacle of the rom-com.  However I feel mostly opposed to it, just because some of Allen’s other work has so much more soul. I suppose that’s just personal bias.

Judgment – Debatable

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen, Part 4; Love and Death (1975)

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Back again, with part 4 of greatest directors, as we delve another notch deeper into Woody Allen’s directing career, as we look at satirical period drama spoof Love and Death (1975). I did no background reading, or had no prior knowledge on this one at all, and was quite surprised when it turned out to be a period drama. I was optimistic at first, but Love and Death didn’t really deliver for me, in any of it’s basic functions.

The old bent sword gag, might have been funny if I hadn't also seen it in Bananas.

The old bent sword gag, might have been funny if I hadn’t also seen it in Bananas.

In brief summary, Allen plays Russian oaf Boris, who harbors feelings for his cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton). Boris then is sent to war, reluctantly, but somehow survives and is heralded as a war hero. Meanwhile it shows a basic subplot of Sonja married to a herring-monger. Afterwards Boris is challenged to a duel, as he sleeps with a stern, noble gun-fighters wife. He shows him pacifism, and basically succeeds and as a result Sonja agrees to marry him, believing he’d be shot dead by the duel. Then Napoleon threatens to invade Russia, as Boris and Sonja formulate a plot to assassinate him.

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Only a brief synopsis, but fairly suiting for a film that doesn’t really have a narrative. Love and Death feels absurdly generic, it doesn’t feel as textured and satirical as Bananas, as wacky or absurdist like Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, or as genuinely interesting as Sleeper and it’s set pieces. The film follows a very bland parody structure taking the setting and topic matter of the Period Drama, and just using it as a vehicle for relatively bland jokes and an absurd amount of screen-time for Allen. It might have also been the fact that Period Drama doesn’t exactly mix well with comedy, the humor often comes out more surreal than anything else because the context is kind of malleable. The wit isn’t as evident here, as he very much relies on slapstick, and crude humor involving the kinder sex. It just doesn’t have that blend of narrative cohesion, witty quips, slapstick, and amusing presence his earlier films had. However, in Diane Keaton’s second appearance in one of Allen’s films she does bring a relative amount of humor to it, and is a good compliment to Allen.

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There’s not really an entirely big amount to say about Love and Death other than that. Also on that note, the social commentary is not evident at all here, the sly tongue in cheek, left-wing shenanigans are nowhere to be seen. Love and Death wasn’t a ‘bad’ film, just incredibly dull. It’s very shallow,  it feels like it’s been written for the sake of making a film, in terms of generic mainstream production. That’s it for today I suppose, can’t always have a lot to say. Hopefully I’ll be able to amuse you all a bit more with Part 5 as we take a look at Annie Hall (1977), a big Oscar-winner and supposed turning point in the career of Mr.Allen. Tomorrow’ll be an Actor Study piece, as I start a new series detailing an actor’s career and performances, focusing heavily on characterisation, but also being a review in it’s self. So thanks for reading, please Like/Comment/Follow if you feel inclined, and until next time. Cheers!

– Sam. 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen: Part 3 ‘Sleeper (1973)

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Look like it’s a double wahaaammy today people, as I continue my director series, as I delve deeper into the satirical works of Auteur Mr.Woody Allen as I take a gander at often forgotten Science-Fiction spoof Sleeper (1937). I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first read about Sleeper, before sitting down to watch it, but at a moderate guess at what he’s known for, and the two films so far, I generally guessed that it’d be a satirical comedy, with hints of romance, masquerading in a science-fiction shell while it plays lightly on inter-textuality and the conventions and tropes of the sci-fi Genre. It turns out that’s pretty much what Sleeper is, a fairly cliche’ but interesting sci-fi context that’s essentially a contemporary rom-com at it’s core.

He's a robot now. How kooky.

He’s a robot now. How kooky.

Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) is a health-food store owner, and a musician who is involuntarily frozen using cryogenic technology for 200 years. Scientists illegally unfreeze him, in order to use him as a tool to rebel against the corrupt government and it’s leader, as everyone is scanned and identified on a database, but Miles will have none due to his non-existence in that time period. The scientists who unfroze him are taken away, before telling him he must stop the ‘aries’ project. He meets Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), A poet who is at first deeply scared of the ‘alien’ as she claims, however in fairly stereotypical fashion they begin to get along, as Diane shows affection for Miles, and Miles the same. Miles then gets taken as police officers surround the house, as they assimilate his brain, and replace his personality with a new one. Luna thrives in the wild, and joins the resistance who eventually save Milo, as they formulate a plan and conveniently restore his brain. They sneak into an important government building, pretend to be scientists and steal a nose that’s intended to clone the now dead leader of the oppressive state, as they escape in comic fashion and kiss, as the narrative climaxes relatively abruptly?

The elements of Science-Fiction are handled relatively well in terms of scenery and setting.

The elements of Science-Fiction are handled relatively well in terms of scenery and setting.

The sleeper is interesting at first, with it’s unusual hybrid genres of Comedy and Science-Fiction. While the script is interesting, the story often drops flat, and is terribly conceited as opposed to Bananas, which was just clever in it’s narrative progressive. Allen’s and Keaton’s chemistry is interesting, and certainly humorous yet while Allen’s witty quips and dialogue never cease to entertain, the over reliance on slapstick border-lining on the absurd and ridiculous in Benny Hill-esque fashion is a bit much, and really starts to dilute the overall tone in Sleeper. It has some reasonable special effects, make-up, yet fairly dull clinical interiors going for the whole dystopian bland aesthetics. There’s a lot of intertextuality in Sleeper, and various homages to fairly notable science fiction literature, and overall the sci-fi does it’s job of livening up an otherwise generic film. Beyond the sci-fi, the film is essentially just a romantic comedy, in a science-fiction shell, following the formula of a male and a female who don’t get along at first, and then they do, but something complicates why they can’t be together as the relationship expands to a love triangle via the introduction of the rebel leader who Luna is quite taken with. I understand the film is a comedy, but any semblance of real storytelling is discarded during the last half an hour of screen or so, with no real ending? they simply run away with the nose, then embrace? I’m not entirely sure why this is a climax in any way? Sure, many romantic comedies have the typical oh they’re together audience assumes happy ever after ending, but I just expected more from what was apparently a science-fiction tale, and I definitely expected more from Woody Allen who’s shown a real affinity for unusual storytelling and intrigue so far, but I was honestly quite disappointed by the climax of Sleeper. 

Yum, instant pudding.

Yum, instant pudding.

As for symbolism or social commentary, Sleeper didn’t have a whole lot considering it’s an Allen film. At most you could claim the sheer malleable nature of the characters, that Luna becomes so inverted from her ritualistic, technologically dependent life and at one point seems incredibly stubborn before making a completely unprovoked change of heart. There’s an interesting contrast as Allen becomes the one integrated in society when he is brainwashed, and Luna is the rebel like Allen at the beginning of the film. As I continue to watch Allen films I’m finding really badly written female characters. They’re always love interests, and usually the butt of many jokes, and not much else. I guess you could imply it’s a product of it’s time in some ways, but it’s often grating, although it could be said in Bananas and Sleeper there’s not really any vaguely important characters other than Allen and his prospective mate. As for consistency and the overall style  i’m starting to find the storytelling of Allen’s films merely as homage and decoration for his humor, merely a casing for his quips. He certainly has directing talent, but hope to see more of a narrative based approach with perhaps less self-indulgence.

I do appreciate a good HAL reference.

I do appreciate a good HAL reference.

I didn’t dislike Sleeper, but I didn’t actively like it either. I found Bananas actively funny, and Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About sex mildly humorous, but with Sleeper i smirked a few times at the quips at beast, as I found the slapstick mostly poor in taste. However, I still look forward to the next installment, however i’ll be taking a break with some other film I’ve been meaning to watch for a while. So until next time film fans! Cheers!, and please Like/Follow/Comment if you so choose.

– Sam. 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen, Part 2: Every Thing You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask).

EYAWTKAS-Poster

Due to a lack of other things to watch, the series continues! With Woody Allan’s Every Thing You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) (1972). It’s a comedy film, which is kind of a loose satire of Dr.Reuben’s book of the name same which was a bestseller in 1969 (Oh the irony). The film is split into 7 sections with headings, which are completely unrelated segments all based around a loosely formulated topic of sex and sexuality. It’s interesting that this is only the second Woody Allen film I’ve seen in this series, and he’s already experimenting with style, and substance, but the whole concept and delivery leaves me rather skeptical. 

Yes, why that is Gene Wilder. In bed. With a Sheep.

Yes, why that is Gene Wilder. In bed. With a Sheep.

1) Do Aphrodisiacs work? A court Jester (Woody Allen) plots to seduce a queen, by befriending a shaman who gives him a potion, however he is foiled by her chastity belt, as the King has him executed.

2) What is Sodomy? A doctor (Gene Wilder) is bemused as a patient enters his office and urges him to talk to a sheep, so that he might rekindle their relationship. At a twist of fate, Gene Wilder also falls for the sheep.

3) Why do some women have trouble reaching an orgasm? In an homage to Italian cinema, particularly Federico Fellini’s work (So i’m told, not much experience on the topic if i’m honest) it deals with the issue of a couple, who can only orgasm while in public, starring Woody Allen, and ex-wife Louise Lasser

4) Are Transvestites Homosexuals? An elderly man puts on women’s clothing, then has his purse stolen, as his wife and friends realize it’s him.

5) What are Sex Perverts? In a parody of game show ‘What’s my Line’, What’s my Perversion is a show in which contestants must guess a mystery guests perversion, followed by a segment in which a viewer in invited on to the show so they can live out their fantasy, as a Rabai is tied to a chair and whipped, as his wife sits at his feet and eats pork.

6) Are the Findings of Doctors and Clinics Who Do Sexual Research and Experiments Accurate? In an odd b-movie frankensteinish patishe, a biologist (Woody Allen) and a Journalist (Helen Lacey) travel to Dr.Bernardo’s house, who is a sex scientist. They soon learn he is insane, as the two escape, however a giant breast escapes the house and begins to ravage the country side, and murder.

7) What happens during Ejaculation? In a sci-fi spoof, we see a literal simulation of the human body from the inside, with humanised characters are functions of the body, starring Bert Reynolds as the brain’s switchboard.

So. Every Thing You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask) does try a lot harder than Bananas, in the way that it doesn’t have Woody Allen’s wit to carry across every scene. In addition there’s no real slapstick, and the film very much relies on homage, satire, and wit as opposed to anything else. The vignettes idea is more of a frequent in TV, with sketch comedy being an absurdly popular format in the comedic genre on television. However, i’m not too sure it suits cinema. On the big screen you can’t really afford to hit and miss as much on such a grand scale with comedy, where with television the criticisms aren’t so important. My favourite vignettes were 5, 7, and 2. 

Well that's a...giant boob. Yep. Well. Yep. Uh-Huh. Yep.

Well that’s a…giant boob. Yep. Well. Yep. Uh-Huh. Yep.

What is Sodomy? is a fantastic concept, if not a bit too controversial, with Gene Wilder pulling off his classic crazy shtick as ever to great effect and I found the thing quite hilarious. However, i’m not so sure as many would find ideas of bestiality no matter how ironic, or silly, funny. The TV spoof, what are Sex Perverts? was incredibly satirical, with great direction, everything about it felt so authentic, and well-executed as a sketch.  What Happens During Ejaculation? is an odd comedy sketch. It’s very clever, and thought-out and very well executed, however it’s really interesting and thought-provoking as a concept, and is a great watch, but it’s not actually that funny because it’s just quite interesting instead. I’m not overly sure if this a good thing, or a bad one? Either way it’s definitely my favorite of the segments. The other stories I found either ridiculous, or rather waffley and inherently not that funny. As for seeing more of Allen’s directorial style, I’ve seen more of an affinity for satire, and wit, and with his writing of all of the stories we see a real creative mind behind Allen, specifically one not afraid of controversy or afraid to offend. We also don’t really see any social commentary, as opposed to Bananas which was very much full of it. In regards to his style we also see a real affinity for homage, and a very clear understanding of genres and convention, with him parodying the medieval, sci-fi, game show formats, a monster movie, and the work of Federico Fellini (someone who very much inspires Allen).

Burt Reynolds!? What're you doing here!?

Burt Reynolds!? What’re you doing here!?

In summary, I liked Every Thing You Always Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask). It wasn’t directly as funny as Bananas, with it losing momentum jumping between stories. However it was the better made film, showing how Allen directs actors and not just himself as he only features in it, with him not evident in many of the scenes. In general I found it more interesting, particularly with the different homages, and definitely in his choice of cast. Given so far i’ve seen a fairly traditional situational comedy, and now a segmented sketch comedy, I look very much forward to the next installment Sleeper (1973). Thanks for readin’ folks, and please Follow/Like/Comment if you’ve liked what you’ve read, and thanks for your time. Cheers!

– Sam T. 

Greatest Directors: Woody Allen, Part 1: Bananas (1971)

Woody1

Hey there, i’m trying something a bit different this time, and in addition to my normal miscellaneous reviews, and some case studies i’ll be writing soon, I decided to do a series. Basically, alternating between Directors, watching all of their films in vague chronology, and tandem to really get a taste for their style, to really observe the continuities, differences, motifs, and tropes in one director’s specific style of writing, and direction.  So for my first i’ll be looking at Director Woody Allen’s films first starting with one of his more famous films, often cited as his first ‘real’ production, Bananas (1971). To clarify I haven’t recently seen any of Woody Allen’s films and I’m basically doing this blind without having read any material, reviews, ratings, or otherwise, thought it’d be much more interesting for a fresh perspective considering it’s not exactly just a review. Obviously as I get deeper into a director’s filmography I can more properly contrast and compare titles.

A parody of the cinematic elements here, as Fielding opens the closet to find a harp-player playing what was previously non-diagetic score.

A parody of the cinematic elements here, as Fielding opens the closet to find a harp-player playing what was previously non-diagetic score.

Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) is a product tester, who finds himself alone, wanting the company of a woman. Nancy, an activist knocks on his door, and asks him to sign a petition, as he befriends her and soon starts to date her, before she dumps him, claiming he’s too dull. As a result, he becomes more engaged in activism, and goes to the country of San Marcos, and after a rather comedic attempted assassination of him, he reluctantly joins the rebels, eventually becoming the president of San Marcos. He goes back to the states, as more hijinx ensue resulting in him going to court, as he’s outed as a traitor to the united states. He’s relieved of his 15 years of jail service (I can’t remember the punchline of why?), as he reunites with Nancy, and eventually marries her as the film reaches a happy ending.

New Testament Cigarettes, he'll forgive you.

New Testament Cigarettes, he’ll forgive you.

Allen is hilarious as you’d expect with his very awkward body language and dialogue, making any form of slap-stick unbearably funny. However what’s more to talk about is the heavy use of satire in ‘Bananas’. Bananas is very much a comedy, however in it’s parody of the U.S’s foreign policies in such a turbulent time given the U.S’s relations with Cuba, the cold war, and Vietnam, Bananas definitely has small elements of radicalism lurking beneath the humor. Evident here in the opening scenes as the leader of San Marcos is publicly assassinated. 

Don Dunphy: Good afternoon. Wide World of Sports is in the little republic of San Marcos where we’re going to bring you a live, on the spot assassination. They’re going to kill the president of this lovely Latin American country and replace him with a military dictatorship. And everybody is about as excited and tense as can be. The weather on this Sunday afternoon is perfect; and if you’ve just joined us, we’ve seen a series of colorful riots that started with the traditional bombing of the American embassy – a ritual as old as the city itself.

Howard Cosell: This is tremendous, Don, just tremendous. The atmosphere heavy, uncertain, overtones of ugliness. A reminder, in a way, of how it was in March of 1964 at Miami Beach when Clay met Liston for the first time and nobody was certain how it would turn out. The crowd is tense; they’ve been here since ten this morning. And… and I think I see… the door beginning to open. El Presidente may be coming out. The door opens. It’s he… it’s El Presidente waving at the crowd. A shot rings out! He turns… he runs back toward the building, trying to get in. This crowd is going wild. He’s caught in a crossfire of bullets. And down! It’s over! It’s all over for El Presidente!

I do understand the humor in this, but in the same way the dialogue is very condemning of foreign policy in other countries and Woody Allen’s satire of this is incredibly evident in ‘Bananas’.  The comparison of sports to an assassination, and the fact ABC covers it in the film is quite a big indictment of the American media, but it’s very possible i’m just reading the dialogue too deeply. Either way, I think ‘Bananas’ sets a precedent in the very early days of Woody Allen’s career, of slapstick and wit, coiled with a lot of satire, and often comedic satire always has to be ripe, fresh, and current and that’s why you could see ‘Bananas’ being a lot more appreciates in it’s original social context than now. I think if something similar was made today in America, providing social commentary and satire of the whole middle-east saga it’d be received horrendously badly.

This really doesn't need a caption.

This really doesn’t need a caption.

I enjoyed Bananas, I found it very funny, which really justifies the script and shows it’s not just cheap contextual gags but honest wit, and humor from an incredibly funny man. However, beneath that we also see a very keen directorial eye. For now I’ll leave you with this clip from Bananas, and hope you’ll join me next time for Every Thing You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex (1972). Please Like/Comment/Follow if you feel like it. Cheers!

– Sam.