SeptemBergman: Through a Glass Darkly
My third outing with Ingmar Bergman brought me to the beginning of his famed "religious trilogy. Through a Glass Darkly was released in 1961 and examines a woman's mental illness, a young man emotionally starved of his father's love, and the grief of losing someone you love and how helpless one feels in that situation. An emotional exploration of love and loss and a family left grasping at whatever pieces of their relationship are left. Visually as gorgeous as it is stark, Through a Glass Darkly rakes the audience over the coals of its pensive intensity yet leave you safely nestled in the warmth of its lyrical beauty.
SeptemBergman: Summer with Monika
For years I've put off a number of other film projects because I hadn't watched Ingmar Bergman's filmography. Ingmar Bergman has always been the cinematic powerhouse I've most admired despite only seeing one of his films. I struggled with prioritizing other film projects knowing I had nearly all of Bergman's filmography to discover. After finally doing my recent deep-dive into Woody Allen's filmography, and seeing how influential Ingmar Bergman was to Woody Allen, I decided to finally schedule a retrospective of Bergman's films. I actually started this project with Summer with Monika because it was the first Bergman film that Woody Allen saw. Perhaps not the best entry point to Ingmar Bergman, Summer with Monika was a gorgeous film with a brilliant exploration of a relationship and a raw portrait of the gamut run as emotions develop.
Remembering Gene Wilder
I will never forget what I was doing 366 days ago, I had bought a house about 4-weeks prior that needed a lot of love. After renovating for two weeks, enough had been done that I could finally move in. I was certain that buying a house as a single person was the biggest mistake of my life. I was endlessly overwhelmed and felt as though I had fallen into an abyss I would never be able to climb out of. I finally decided to do what always seemed to help when my life felt bleak. At about 10:00, on the evening of August, 28th, 2016, I did what I often did when feeling especially melancholic when I put in one of my favorite Gene Wilder films.
Woody Allen Retrospective: Annie Hall
Annie Hall was the first film of Woody Allen's that I was ever exposed to. About seven years ago, I began to make my way through the Academy Award Best Picture winners. When I arrived at 1977, I had almost no prior knowledge of Woody Allen, as I had not started the deep dive into the pool of cinema I now swim in, so I came into the film with few expectations. I was absolutely blown away by Annie Hall, the artistry achieved in such a heartbreaking film completely floored me. I knew someday I would make a point to see everything else Woody Allen had made because that's how fast a project "happens" for me. It took longer than I would have liked, but I finally embarked on that retrospective project in July of this year. I had seen 11 of Woody Allen's films at the beginning of the project and discovered so many new favorites. Annie Hall was the only one of the 11 I rewatched, curious to see if it would remain at the top of my throne of Woody Allen's filmography. Annie Hall is still my favorite Woody Allen film, and one of my best-loved films of all time. It remains a rewatchable favorite, a film filled with personal touches and experimentation, a film that I am eternally grateful for.
Woody Allen Retrospective: Manhattan
My favorite part of doing a retrospective project on a director, especially a favorite like Woody Allen, is finding the gems that are largely overlooked in their filmographies. The month I spent watching Woody Allen films brought to light many such gems that I had not yet seen. I would be remiss, however, if I neglected to mention the masterworks that everyone recognizes in Woody Allen's illustrious career. Manhattan is a beautiful film full of heart and artistry. I can't believe it took me so long to see Manhattan. Manhattan is one of those rare films that meets every tremendous expectation put before it. Topping many "best of" lists is should be easy to be disappointed by Manhattan after hearing about it for so long before actually seeing it, but that doesn't happen. The simple message of love, regret, and having faith in people is as endearing and alluring to watch in Manhattan as I'm sure it was on the day of its premiere.
Woody Allen Retrospective: Whatever Works
The best part of working on a retrospective of someone's career is being able to see the gems hidden in their filmographies that you would otherwise miss. This month has been a wave of discovery, and through it, I have found some of my new favorite films. Woody Allen is a director with bona fide classics connected to his name. No one is likely to argue that Annie Hall is a standout in artistic achievement, or that Manhattan is an absolutely perfect blend of romance and comedy, positioned in front of a beautifully shot New York skyline, carrying a pitch-perfect score. Among others, Woody Allen is responsible for a number of other classics, with a near universal consensus as to their place among the best in American cinema. With a dozen or so revered films associated with Woody Allen that he gets ample credit for as being near-perfect works, I suppose it only makes sense that a number of his films would fly under the radar, missing the acclaim of the giants they share a lineage with. In my estimation, Whatever Works, the 2009 film written and directed by Woody Allen, deserves to be counted among his greats. No one could have made Whatever Works work like Woody Allen. Only his brand of cynicism, yet desire, to find happiness in the meaningless could have created the philosophical exercise that is Whatever Works. Larry David stars as the perfect "Woody Allen character", a term I dislike, as I don't find Woody Allen to be attempting to inject himself in each of his movies as much as I understand him to simply be writing characteristics he knows about. It's a losing battle, I've learned, to try to convince those I know to join me in an effort to change the American lexicon, so for the purpose of understanding, I'll say there is no one better to play a "Woody Allen character" than Larry David. I'm a huge fan of the neurotic curmudgeon I first met in David's show Curb Your Enthusiasm and always thought he would be great in a Woody Allen film. Imagine my delight to learn he was already in one! In Whatever Works, David plays a self-described misanthrope with a wholly negative view of the human race spending a majority of his time baffled that he has to live among it. Larry David stars alongside Evan Rachel Wood and Patricia Clarkson as the women who enter his life and possibly change it. Whatever Works is perhaps the most hard-hitting illustration of Woody Allen's outlook on life. Woody pulls no punches in Whatever Works; he does what works for him and his artistic expression, examining life's unanswered questions, with a half-smile and comedic touch. Forty-three years after his directorial debut, Woody Allen is still questioning the purpose of life, not to provide an answer, but rather to be content with its perceived meaninglessness.