When asked whether his relationship with death had evolved in his old age, at a press conference a few years ago, he replied « No, I’m still strongly against it. » At any rate, it has definitely been a constant theme in his work. As his latest opus, Irrational Man, is about to hit UK theatres soon, let’s take a look back at the career of one of the most prolific filmmakers since Melies. I limited myself to twelve, which is proportionally equal to picking just one film in Kubrick’s filmography.
1) Manhattan (1979)
This is Woody Allen in top form. Even though he is notoriously dissatisfied with it, and even offered United Artists to do another film for free if they shelved this one. In their infinite wisdom, they released it and it was one of his most successful films. It features beautiful cinematography from Gordon Willis, and basically put on film the way everyone would want to fall in love.
2) Match Point (2005)
Considered by many as a return to form on the part of the veteran filmmaker. After a string of uneven films, he made this exploration of morality and chance, and started a fruitful collaboration with Scarlett Johansson, which was to give us striking images images (the wheat field scene, anyone?)
3) Annie Hall (1977)
Described by critic Roger Ebert as « just about everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie ». It definitely is iconic in that it helped create the modern romantic comedy genre, and also cemented Woody Allen and Diane Keaton the iconic 70’s couple. It is an insanely creative work which surprised every film critic after Woody’s first « early, funny ones », and it went on to win the best picture Oscar over critics favourite Star Wars.
4) Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
This is one of the least « Woody Allen » of Woody Allen’s films, in that it doesn’t feature his neurotic, wisecracking character. It features Mia Farrow and Jeff Daniels in a romantic film about finding comfort in fantasies or settling with a disappointing reality. That’s a recurring theme in Allen’s work, most recently in Magic in the Moonlight, but never did he achieve it in such a powerful way. Even Allen admits this is one of his better films.
5) Crimes & Misdemeanors (1989)
This one falls in the same category as Match Point, in the exploration of crime, morality and justice. It features a terrific ensemble cast, led by Allen, Martin Landau, Anjelica Huston, Alan Alda and Sam Waterston.
6) Blue Jasmine (2013)
One of his most recent films, it’s yet another argument against those who have declared Woody Allen washed out and irrelevant. He directed Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins in stellar performances, and proved himself yet again to be one of the finest screenwriters around.
7) Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)
One of the most iconic of Allen’s output in the 80’s, it features the making and unmaking of relationships within a family over the course of two years. It features yet another stunning ensemble, led by Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest, and Carrie Fisher, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Max Von Sydow.
8) Sleeper (1973)
Among the « early, funny ones », this is one of the most creative. Set in a dystopian future, Woody Allen wakes up 200 years after being frozen against his will. This parody of science fiction, which pairs Allen with Diane Keaton, also wanted to be as accurate as possible. So Woody Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman sent their script to science-fiction writer Isaac Asimov for verification.
9) Love & Death (1975)
At the intersection between Sleeper and Annie Hall, there’s this: a parody of Russian novels that also touches on the ever-present theme of ever-present death. It’s midway between comedy and reflexion on deeper themes: it’s both funny and touching, and one of Woody’s finest from his early output.
10) Midnight in Paris (2011)
His biggest success to date, Woody continued his exploration of European capitals in Paris by romanticising it and setting the stage for all the iconic American writers to roam its streets. This beautiful fantasy earned Allen excellent reviews and another writing Oscar.
11) Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Take Scarlett Johansson, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Rebecca Hall for a bike ride, and you’ve got yourself a movie. If you’re Woody Allen, you’ve got an incredibly steamy and beautiful feature.
12) Everyone Says I Love You
The 90’s were sort of hit-and-miss for Woody Allen, yet this one never ceases to charm. Using old standards as the basis for this musical, it showed yet again, as many other movies have since, that Woody Allen knows how to write, how to use music, and how to make incredible films, with any actor he likes, as they’re all dying to work with him
There are so many to pick from, and probably many more to come… Which ones are you favourites? Did I miss any? Share in the comments!