Saturday, August 27, 2005

Husbands and Wives

Everyone loves to say that Woody Allen's work is too autobiographical, that in every movie he just plays himself (a claim that he wittily and artfully countered in 1997 with the under-appreciated Deconstructing Harry), but what he actually does is take his real-life experiences and, instead of presenting them as a thinly-veiled fiction, he uses them to construct a fictional reality that stands in opposition to his closely-read personal life. In his 1977 classic Annie Hall, he casts himself (as Alvy Singer) as a failed lover who cannot keep the woman of his dreams in real life, but only in the fiction he creates, while, in real life, Woody Allen was still very much involved with Diane Keaton and would stay with her for the space of two more movies.

In 1992's Husbands and Wives, Allen depicts the ups and downs of longstanding marriages in a "realistic" documentary style, showing how his character's marriage falls apart because his wife's character (played by his girlfriend of the moment Mia Farrow) leaves him for another man while he resists the temptation to leave her for a younger woman. At this time in real life, however, Woody Allen was engaging in his infamous affair with Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's adopted daughter, whom he would eventually marry. Like Philip Roth's Zuckerman in The Counterlife, it seems that Allen doesn't use his life as a model for the fictions he creates, but rather something of the inverse; he uses the fictions of his movies as a means of sampling (and, in some cases, rejecting) different life choices.

I suppose this post isn't much in the way of a review so much as a discussion of Allen's style, but by discussing Husbands and Wives in the same breath as Annie Hall and The Counterlife, I'd say I'm giving it a pretty strong recommendation. Maybe I'll say why another time.


Blogger Quimby said...

I was really pleasantly surprised by your decision to describe Woody and Diane Keaton's relationship as lasting for "two more movies," instead of some number of years. Hahaha.

My mom is reading Mia Farrow's autobiography and says that, according to Mia, not only does his life not line up with his work but the character is very different too. Supposedly he's very masculine and even athletic. I'm skeptical, but I guess Mia knows better than me.

And allow me to make my pitch for you to see New York Stories and tell me what you think. In a post, of course.


September 04, 2005 7:56 AM  

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