Monday, December 17, 2007

Hannah and Her Sisters at Film Forum

Woody Allen's obviously a big fat jerk. The man left his wife for his step-daughter. Fucked-up? Yeah, you can say that again.

Then there was the whole Scarlett Johansson business.

Oh, yeah, and the fact that in almost every single post-coital scene in his films, the female character always goes on effusively about how it was the best sex she's ever had, to Woody's meek, yet somehow still self-assured reply of "yeah, that was pretty great."

But as much as I want to hate him, I just can't hate the man responsible for this film.

I love Annie Hall , and Manhattan , but there is just a special something about Hannah that I can't quite put my finger on. While it may not be Woody's favorite of his films, Hannah seems to occupy a very special place in the hearts of its fans. I think the film as a whole is rougher and less-finished than the other two masterworks. Hannah's ending is obviously a rewrite, and the last scene is such a "happy" ending it seems like Woody should be standing behind the camera, shaking his head and mumbling "no, no, this is all wrong." And yet, somehow, it isn't.

Everyone's depressed and neurotic as hell, mom and dad are actors and mom's a raging alcoholic. Sister one (Hannah) takes care of everyone except herself, sister two (Lee) is stuck in the middle, and sister three (Holly) is an insecure coke-head with a keen sense of style. Mia Farrow's acting is superb. All three actresses have a way of registering the minute insult or rejections that open up those deep-seeded wounds of their characters--Barbara Hershey tends to cry, clench her jaw, and Dianne Wiest's disappointment when her best friend Wendy tells her she's going on a date with her beau is dead-on, but it is Mia Farrow, in her insistence as Hannah that she too has needs, that she is not this self-sufficent wonder woman, that performance is gut-wrenchingly human and, on a personal note, Hannah reminds me a lot of my mother: trying to deal with her own problems whilst surrounded by emotional wrecks with high demands (me, and my brother).

Woody manages to make a philosophical comment on the meaning of life through his Mickey character, who almost has a brain tumor. In the scene where Mickey is recounting his near suicide attempt, after which he goes to the movies to sort things out, he has the realization that it doesn't matter whether or not there's a God. Even if there isn't one, what's the point of killing yourself when you could just go along for the ride?

By the time Mickey and Holly meet back up in the record store I'm already in tears watching her giggle at Mickey's fliratious insults. "Hey, remember me? We once spent the worst night of my life together?" And her exuberance and pride over his praise on her script is pretty much one of the most endearing scenes in the history of American cinema.

In other words, I'm a goner by the time everyone's settled and the third Thanksgiving dinner rolls around.

I love Hannah because its tripod of neurosis reflects what is the worst and the best about having a family you can't live without.

And because of that, Woody, I will forgive you for that oil-massage scene in Match Point .

Hannah and her Sisters at Film Forum until December 24th.


Joanna Goddard said...

OH MY GOD, i feel the exact same way. when i found out about his daughter thing, i boycotted his films. but then my old boyfriend made me watch Hannah and i couldn't help thinking woody allen was a genius.

also i am obsessed w/diane lane and will watch anything she's in, so now i own annie hall.

i have no morals.

kat said...

Ditto on "Hannah". And there's something so squirm-inducing-yet-endearing about Michael Caine with the e.e. cummings book, too.