Despite the fact that I utterly failed to document my Hitchcock filmographical tour last year (I did indeed finish it, and it is really, really interesting to watch someone’s entire canon of work — you pick up on a lot more and more of the director’s actual touch comes through than when you just see two or three movies, where a single strong element (actor, plot device, scene) can take up more of it’s share than it really deserves), I’m doing another one.
Or maybe I am; I mentioned the concept to a friend (who shall remain nameless), and she suggested I do the same thing with Woody Allen. I’m really not a huge Woody Allen fan, but I’ve seen two or three that were good enough to watch, and the first couple were on Netflix’s “watch instant” at an opportune time, so I started in on it.
[editor’s note: one of the lessons of the Hitchyear was to watch all of the movies in order; that way you get the more interesting fare (typically) as you progress along. if you pick and choose, then you inevitably end up with a stack of three silent movies that the director didn’t write or care too much about … all looming over your head on New Year’s Eve.]
So I’ve done the first two: What’s Up Tiger Lily? and Take The Money And Run
What’s Up Tiger Lily? is, to say the least, and interesting concept: Allen bought the rights to a couple of cheapo, lightweight Japanese cop movies, and re-assembled a slapstick comedy out of the pieces (or some of the pieces, anyway), with a completely new audio soundtrack dubbed in (and dubbed in pretty well, too). Today that’s the kind of thing that you’d see Andy Samberg doing or some jerk on YouTube, except that they’d make it stupider. And this was forty years ago. But it’s funny. It’s not a classic, but it is interesting to notice that you can’t possibly unravel what you’ve seen and mentally re-assemble it into the Japanese original. It makes no sense at all. But maybe it didn’t in the first place. It’s also interesting that Allen appears in the movie, introducing it and answering “questions” like they do in Bravo and IFC navelgazery shows. Warren Beatty was probably really ticked.
Take The Money And Run is more of a straight-up comedy. It’s actually a faux-documentary, which I believe Allen has done many of, about an inept guy who somehow embarks on a low-rent life of crime … mostly robbing gumball machines and breaking out of prison. It’s funny, though it’s not quite coherent in a few places; there’s a lot of in-and-out-and-running-from-the-law. The funniest bits are individual scenes (such as two crews of bank robbers showing up to rob the same bank at the same time) which are just sort of linked together with narration. So there’s original material, but not a lot of polish.
According to The Wikipedia, there are 45 movies in the WA filmography (though I have to double-check; at least one of the early ones is a made-for-TV short, so they may not all be features or even available). Wonder how far I’ll get this time….