Wednesday, July 30, 2014
Annie Hall was supposed to be a murder mystery and a psychological anatomy of Alvy Singer, the first of Woody Allen’s alpha neurotics. But when the footage proved lifeless in the editing room, the filmmakers reworked it radically, focusing on Singer’s relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The result is one of cinema’s great love stories, a funny, tender tribute to one very specific, goofily lovely woman that also speaks to all the loves we’ve ever lost, thanks to a built-in running commentary (including jokes and asides Singer delivers to the camera) on everything from the nature of love to the perils of living too much in your head.
Written for The L Magazine
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
“I would like to tell you a very strange story—I mean, if you’d be willing to listen to it,” title character Halvard Solness (Wallace Shawn) says in A Master Builder, a production headed by Shawn (who wrote the screenplay from his own translation of Henrik Ibsen’s play) and his longtime collaborator Andre Gregory (who adapted it for the stage and plays another of the main roles), with the help of Jonathan Demme, who the two recruited to direct. Halvard’s line, which could easily have come from either of the two old friends’ other films, is spoken early enough to feed our hopes that A Master Builder will follow in the nimble footsteps of My Dinner with Andre and Vanya on 42nd Street, deftly exploring human nature and the nature of language—both the stories we tell and the things we leave unspoken. Unfortunately, this film is as flatfooted as the others are agile.
Wednesday, July 2, 2014
The industrial-strength whine of an unseen engine dominates the opening moments of Land Ho! What could it be? A plane getting about to take off for some exotic place? A chainsaw preparing to rip through something--or someone? Nope, it’s a vacuum cleaner, wielded by Mitch (played by Earl Lynn Nelson, co-director Martha Stephens’ second cousin). Mitch, we soon learn, is a recently retired surgeon who’s cleaning up a bit before his favorite ex-brother-in-law, Colin (Paul Eenhoorn) comes over for dinner.
That aural punch line is a nice introduction to this deadpan but lively film, which presents everyday situations and encounters with just enough of a twist to focus our attention on them. And you’ve got to savor the small stuff, as Land Ho! gently reminds us, because those seemingly inconsequential moments make up the warp and the weft of our lives.