Thursday, February 23, 2006

Deconstructing Harry

1997

Dir: Woody Allen

Intriguing comedy that lives up to its name. Allen plays Harry Block, a loathsome man whose selfishness has extended to his writing, where he trashes his friends and relatives in his latest novel. But this time, they fight back. The plot is inconsequential, and slight. But the all star (and I mean all star) cast does a fine job.

The movie is noteworthy for two reasons. One is the literary theory that informs the script. Block admits his difficulties in living, his inability to function in society. But in his art he is capable. As he confronts his life, the line between fiction and reality blurs, to the point that the actors playing the fictional characters and the actors playing their supposed real-life counterparts are interchangable in the movie. It's not as confusing as it sounds, and it really works. The script is an early version of Adaptation. Allen's alter ego will interact with his fictional lover, and then in the next scene the actual Allen is speaking to the actual mistress. Fascinating as well is the editing, with cuts that skip ahead in the scene like a CD might skip 15 seconds into the song; suddenly, you are in the middle of the next verse. I had not seen this movie in years, and it was supremely interesting to watch these elements at work, and the movie is worth watching just for these technical moments.

Secondly, the movie came out at the height of Allen's adoption/sex scandal, when his public image was at its lowest. Block is one of his most evil characters, among a corpus that features few dashing heroes. The confessional tone of the film, when read through the aritist's own personal failings, are a testament to his honesty and committment. I will leave it to others to judge the man's family life.

Allen is a genius who often fails to live up to his potential. But even when he is mediocre, I find his art endlessly rewarding. Deconstructing Harry is one of his better films, far from mediocre. I think it is a testament to his artistry most of all. He has been funnier, more poignant, he has more beautiful films. But few films ever made have been so open, so confessional.

MAP

1 Comments:

Blogger Omri noted on 2/24/2006 03:29:00 AM that...

You know nothing of Woody Allen's work.

(I know, I know... different movie. Still funny)  

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