Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Flick of The Day: Hannah and Her Sisters

Another day, another Woody Allen movie. Last week we looked at Allen's masterpiece Manhattan, his last film of the 1970's. A decade which defined his career and his work in the 1980's was much more sombre in tone and influenced by European directors like Ingmar Bergman. This is not to say that the work was any less entertaining or well made. Some highlights of this period include Radio Days and today's film Hannah and Her Sisters
Hannah and Her Sisters is concerned with the lives and loves of a set of New York bohemians and artistics. The film opens with a Thanksgiving dinner where we are introduced to the main characters. Hannah, ably played by Mia Farrow is an actress, her husband Elliott, in an Oscar winning performance by Michael Caine, lusts after her sister Lee, played by Barbara Hershey who is living with arrogant artist Max Von Sydow. Allen himself appears as a neurotic (Can he play otherwise?) television producer who spends the film convinced he is going to die and ends up dating Hannah's other sister, the eminently irritating Holly, another actress.
The sisters meet on a weekly basis to discuss the week's events, what is most interesting is what they don't tell each other. At various points in the film, they each say how close they are to each other but then lie or misrepresent their lives to each other. The film takes place over the course of three Thanksgiving parties. At the first, all are contented. The second is a time of unhappiness and the third and final party takes place after everything has been resolved. 
The film still has that trademark Woody Allen dialogue and it still sparkles as much as ever but this is perhaps his most complex and rewarding film. There is a great depth to the drama and the relationships of the characters. Indeed, the scope of the film and its tale is almost novelistic. There is a considerable story arc here and as a viewer, there is much to enjoy.

[after learning Mickey is infertile] 
Hannah: Could you have ruined yourself somehow? 
Mickey: How could I ruin myself? 
Hannah: I don't know. Excessive masturbation? 
Mickey: You gonna start knockin' my hobbies?

While none of the characters are particularly endearing and indeed some of them at times grate, they are always compelling. Michael Caine deserves kudos for playing against type as a self centred egotist.

What if there is no God and you only go around once and that's it. Well, ya know, don't you wanna be part of the experience? You know, what the hell it's not all a drag. And I'm thinking to myself, Jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I'm never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts. And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows. I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that's the best we have. And then I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

Another fine piece of film-making from Allen, well worth your time and putting the effort in for there is much to enjoy in this character study. It is so much more then a comedy. 

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