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It’s a Wonderful Life — Woody Allen’s Early Years

There’s prob­a­bly no more over­looked fig­ure in my knowl­edge of film than Woody Allen. He’s always been on my radar; I saw Sleep­er as a pre-teen and knew imme­di­ate­ly that his was a sense of humor and a sen­si­bil­i­ty I could auto­mat­i­cal­ly appre­ci­ate. Annie Hall too. Maybe I thought that said too much about me, but this could be some Car­ly Simon psy­chob­a­b­ble about over­wraught, intel­lec­tu­al nar­cis­si­cists.

So it was after see­ing Man­hat­tan that I com­plete­ly fell in love with Allen as a film­mak­er. I can think of few exam­ples where some­one can not only tell a beau­ti­ful sto­ry in such a self-con­tained, self-absorbed man­ner. And it’s edu­ca­tion­al! Allen keeps no secrets about his influ­ences and his films always point to cin­e­mat­ic his­to­ry. His appre­ci­a­tion for Bergman in Man­hat­tan is not only a metaphor but also a com­pli­ment.

In fact, it’s to Allen’s cred­it that he can so light­heart­ed­ly present audi­ences with film lec­tures while telling a sto­ry at the same time. It’s good because there has to be some way for movie­go­ers who aren’t neu­rot­ic, self-loathing Jew­ish New York­ers to iden­ti­fy with his char­ac­ters. Those car­i­ca­tures are what peo­ple find fun­ny — these rei­fied dis­tor­tions some­times look like car­toons not peo­ple and not mon­sters — mak­ing it eas­i­er to come to grips with the sto­ry itself, which might be painful in ways that hit too close to home.

This has led me to buy Woody Allen Col­lec­tion Vol. 1 and digest it imme­di­ate­ly. For 49 bucks it seemed too good to pass up.