#FilmmakerBios: Woody Allen

Woody Allen, director of Annie Hall (1977) Credit: Movies Dosthana

With the Writers Guild of America’s release of the 101 Funniest Screenplays, we figured now would be as good a time as any to recognize the filmmaker who holds the #1 title for his screenplay, Annie Hall: Woody Allen! With other note-worthy movies making the list such as, Sleeper, Bananas, and Broadway Danny Rose, there’s no doubt that Allen has a prolific film making career. To further celebrate the successful screenwriter and director, we have provided you with an excerpt* from The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen, second edition by Peter J. Bailey.

In this second edition Peter J. Bailey extends his classic study to consider Allen’s work during the twenty-first century. He illuminates how the director’s decision to leave New York to shoot in European cities such as London, Paris, Rome, and Barcelona has affected his craft. He also explores Allen’s shift toward younger actors and interprets the evolving critical reaction to his films—authoritatively demonstrating why the director’s lifelong project of moviemaking remains endlessly deserving of careful attention. Enjoy this additional insight into Woody Allen and his work:

“Allen’s ability to address with dramatic effectiveness the disparity between human perception or desire and reality is, more than anything else, the element of his work responsible for its having become more substantial than—to choose the most obvious and oft-cited contrast—the films of Mel Brooks, which generally settle for the parodying of literary and cinematic forms without exploring the psychic needs served by the forms being parodied. Brilliant as it is as film satire, Brooks’s Young Frankenstein—probably his best film—seeks to displace Frankenstein through humor rather than seeking to illuminate the human desire that the original horror film addressed; it’s Allen’s examination of the needs that art is fulfilling for its audience which most emphatically differentiates his films from Brooks’s. Comedy, it can be argued, is always about the difference between what we think the world is and its actuality; what distinguishes Annie Hall from Allen’s earlier comic films as well as from Brooks’s is that its visual emblems evoke not only the difference between fantasy and reality, but they also dramatize the emotional cost to the perceiver of the awareness of that disparity. Rather than—as Brooks characteristically does—objectifying his protagonist in order to make him an easy target for laughter, these devices draw the viewer inside Alvy so that his emotional landscape becomes the viewer’s as well. Cinematic correlatives of the theatrical soliloquy, the antimimetic emblems of Annie Hall simultaneously provide Allen’s film with a quirky mode of humor, heighten the movie’s aura of plain-dealing candor through their incessant transgression of cinematic conventions of representation, and entertainingly project the subjective reality of Alvy Singer. In their contradictory repudiation and enactment of artistic contrivance, they are the perfect artifices to inaugurate the serious filmmaking career of an artist irremediably suspicious of art.”

*excerpt comes from uncorrected advance version and may not reflect final text

To read more, The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen, second edition is available at your favorite bookseller or online from the University Press of Kentucky.

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About University Press of Kentucky

The University Press of Kentucky has a dual mission—the publication of books of high scholarly merit in a variety of fields for a largely academic audience and the publication of books about the history and culture of Kentucky, the Ohio Valley region, the Upper South, and Appalachia. The Press is the statewide mandated nonprofit scholarly publisher for the Commonwealth of Kentucky, operated as an agency of the University of Kentucky and serving all state institutions of higher learning, plus five private colleges and Kentucky's two major historical societies.

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