Saturday, 5 June 2010

Three Women…Three Years…Three Paragraphs

What is about the number three that makes it so…special?
I was surprised, but gratified when in the comments’ section of my review of Annie Hall love was professed for Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. If the 1977 classic is more then the (relative) serenity of Hannah and Her Sisters must certainly be less. But as the saying goes, less is more, and with Hannah and Her Sisters it’s true. Yet, in theory at least, Hannah and Her Sisters shouldn’t be so excellent. Its irrepressible good-natured manner in the face of disaster is a bit alarming – even for Woody. But when I think of Woody’s greatest, I return to this comedy because Woody has always done best when he takes a group of neurotic and sometimes perverse characters and turn their tales into something deliciously wonderful. Having the opportunity to visit these characters over three years gives him the ideal chance to examine all the things he loves – relationships, religion, family, careers – and he does so with aplomb.
Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Michael Caine, Max Von Sydow Mia Farrow  Barbara Hershey and Woody himself. The man knows to work well with his cast members, thus Hannah and Her Sisters has that extra special something that makes it an almost peerless ensemble. Naturally Woody’s not for all, heaven knows why, but he isn’t. Still, when he’s on his game he’s supreme and every actor in the film is having a good time reading off lines from his Oscar winning script. When I made my list of memorable sisters on screen Hannah and Her Sisters missed by inch, but the relationship between Hershey Wiest and Farrow is wonderfully true. Sure, it’s not as quirky as the other trio of sisters that year but the focus is more expansive and Woody is careful not to make any one of them the “important” one – even if Hannah’s name is the only on in the title. I’m somewhat amused when I think of its name really, Hannah and Her Sisters seems like a misleading title. It is about the sisters and their work, but I’m unsure if that’s ideal name for it. But then, I suppose it’s an attribute of Woody. Annie Hall isn’t really about Annie Hall alone…is it?
So, yes, Hannah and Her Sisters is my favourite Woody piece. It’s something that many fans would say, and I guess sometimes it pays to agree with the masses. Between this and A Room With a View I’m just slightly miffed that the Oscar went to Platoon - which is actually a good winner. But who cares? Prizes are prizes and yet Hannah and Her Sisters continues as a treasure to the comedic genre. It’s troubling though, even though it’s remembered as one Woody’s best I don’t hear as much about it as I’d hope. Sure, it’s been over twenty years but it’s always worth remembering. I’ll always remember Woody’s manic search for a religious epiphany in the film, a scene that has become a bit too spoofed in recent times…what do you remember first when you think of Hannah & Her Sisters (and their men)?


Dan Stephens said...

Great review of one of Woody Allen's finest movies. Hannah and her Sisters has been one of my favourites since the first time I saw it.

Luke said...

Oh gosh - what a great movie. I actually thought of this when you posted your sisters article, so I'm pleased to see this one as well. This movie made me fall in love with Dianne Wiest (and then Parenthood made me fall desperately in love with her :)

**Oh, but I seem to recall that Fisher isn't one of the sisters (check paragraph 2). That's Hershey. Fisher is that dastardly April who steals Sam Waterston away from Holly. Which provides us with that great inner monologue...*

So as usual, your taste transcends, sir.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

dan thanks for the words. glad you enjoyed the review.

luke yikes, fixing that immediately (that's what comes from late night/early morning reviews). i should employ you as proof reader.

and on wiest in parenthood...YES YES YES!

Marcy said...

I adore this movie. Wonderful review.

Yojimbo_5 said...

There are three masterpieces of Allen's and "Hannah and Her Sisters" is one of them.

Yojimbo_5 said...

Oh! What do I think of first? The "religious epiphany" of the end. Michael Caine: "I hahv moi ansah!" And Max Von Sydow's too-cynical-for relationships professor: "If Jesus Christ saw what was being done in his name, he's vomit."