Friday, September 16, 2016
DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (1997)
Written & Directed By: Woody Allen
Cinematography By: Carlo DiPalma
Editor: Susan E. Morse
Cast: Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Demi Moore, Stanley Tucci, Billy Crystal, Elisabeth Shue, Tobey Maguire, Kirstie Alley, Mariel Hemmingway, Robin Williams, Eric Bogosian, Caroline Aaron, Richard Benjamin, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Julie Kavner, Bob Balaban, Peter Jacobson, Hazelle Goodman, Amy Irving, Jennifer Garner, Jonathan LaPaglia, Lynn Cohen, Paul Giamatti, Philip Bosco, Arden Myrin, Tony Sirico
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review
Harry Block is a well-regarded novelist whose tendency to thinly-veil his own experiences in his work, as well as his un-apologetic attitude and his proclivity for pills and whores, has left him with three ex-wives that hate him. As he is about to be honored for his writing by the college that expelled him, he faces writer's block and the impending marriage of his latest flame to a writer friend. As scenes from his stories and novels pass and interact with him, Harry faces the people whose lives he has affected - wives, lovers, his son, his sister.
Woody Allen based Harry's trip on Igmar Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES. Bergman is said to be Allen's favorite director.
This film is surprisingly hard edged for a Woody Allen film. Not necessarily dramatic, just in the way the characters act and are treated. It seems more mean and cruel than usual. There is no finesse the characters seem to have little filter and just say what they mean outright. Which is a change that isn't unwelcome though lacks the grace of most of his films. Though it is also where his character ends up being celebrated to a degree. But is generally unlikeable
The film seems more like a Rebelious act. A film that doesn’t exactly know where it fits in. It feels inspired but also repetitive to a degree. Especially as he has so many returning cast members from previous films. As well as indoctrinating new ones to add to his Players.
It seems a result of Allen trying to keep up with contemporary films of the time with subject matter and language that is more risqué. This film seems to be his most sexual not necessarily in language but visually. This seems like a film meant to be a kind of look at your life. Not necessarily autobiographical. Though it feels that way or at least a little more personal than usual, with some minor derivatives.
This is one of his darkest films that at least seems to acknowledge his mistakes and character flaws, but doesn't exactly apologize for them.
Throughout the film. We see dramatizations of the lead characters books and stories with celebrities and recognizable actors. Which are the characters playing his semi- autobiographical stories and self, but with such a well known cast. He uses them well but they become distracting and wish they were in more of the film. In fact one of the biggest names in the cast at the time is never In Focus which is the main point of the story he is playing he character in. The celebrity filled cast is more like cameos.
So you expect more but they are gone before you can get used to them and soon like with some Robert Altman films it becomes more about spotting he celebrity rather then what is going on.
He even has Judy Davis again in one of his films. After he wrote and directed her to a best supporting. Actress nomination in HUSBANDS & WIVES. Which she was so good in and here she is excellent also though not used to the best of her abilities she makes a mark.
It's nice to see billy crystal in this film as he seems like he would be a natural fit for the material and more Woody Allen films.
It feels like he might be repeating himself as this feels like a modern combination or at least a kind of strange spiritual sequel to something like STARDUST MEMORIES. Fantasy filled, Just not as surreal.
The film is a general reworking of Woody Allen's earlier film STARDUST MEMORIES, which also had an artist go to a ceremony in his honor, while reminiscing over past relationships and trying to fix and stabilize current ones.
The film is similar to 8½, in that it is about an artist struggling with his current relationships and remembering his old ones, interspersed with dream sequences, as well as his work being based on events from his life.
Some critics, including Roger Ebert, suggested that the character of Harry Block is based on real-life author Philip Roth and not on Woody Allen himself. The younger woman/older man love affair and true love obsession hits it's crisis point in this film. Where it just comes off as disturbing more than anything.
Woody Allen originally wanted Elliot Gould to play his part as Harry Block. He also sought out Jack Nicholson, Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Dennis Hopper, Richard Benjamin and Albert Brooks
The film has a great and original premise and is used intelligently. It just doesn't feel as sharp as it should. As he tackles some of his greatest subjects and comes as close to meta as he ever will but it feels artificial.
Even the backgrounds seem more dark as the color red is used a lot all over allowing for s certain richness in the atmosphere and locations.
The short story segments seem like they would have been a good choice for him to have some skits, but the way they play seems much better on paper as most of them aren't that funny, seem more dry and like the humor has been deflated out and end abruptly. Though maybe they are based on Allen's own where he just couldn't figure out an ending or knew they wouldn't work exactly literally.
This film also feels like one that was made in what on call his more claustrophobic period. While it seemed like he was more a hermit it had used all the great pleas as his films still had scenes outside but they also seemed to have more in their scenes. So they came off as more grand but in cramped apartments, hallways, elevators and restaurants. Places that didn't seem very visual maybe to focus more on dialogue and story or maybe as he was having a renaissance of Stars being interested in being in his films it was meant to shield them and him from the paparazzi.
As he seemed for awhile to make films filled with more ensembles and instead writing more to get big names to take small or supporting roles in his films. At least at this time he seemed more vivid with his ideas. Like he was still challenging himself even thematically though it comes off as confidant and polished.
It's a film I wish he could go back and remake as this feels like a movie that could have been destined to be more of his modern classics. It hair seems like the wrong wires got crossed and short circuited the rest.
Shocked that this film doesn't come up more in discussions and conversations. As this film feels like a lot of his 90's work that seems to get lost in the shuffle of his legacy. Though it is an interesting experiment to add to his repertoire especially as I am a big fan of his movies