Though I grew up on Woody Allen's films, I gave up on them about 10 years ago, around the time of Match Point
(2005). Though that film garnered a lot of critical praise, I found it stupefyingly dull and barely competent. Match Point
apparently represented a kind of late-career renaissance for Allen, as he has used it as a generalized stylistic and narrative template for the nine films he's directed since — none of which I've cared to see.
They just don't interest me anymore, and neither did any of the eight or so Allen films that preceded Match Point
. (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion
was maybe the nadir.) Sometimes you just have to cut your losses. Je ne regrette rien
I hate to be one of those guys who says of Allen, "I only really like his earlier, funny stuff" ... but that pretty well sums it up for me. His run of 1970s comedies — including What's Up, Tiger Lily?
; Take the Money and Run
(which I "quoted" in my own undergraduate thesis film); Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex
; the uproarious Love and Death
— are still my favorites.
I also admire his 1980s and '90s "serious comedies" including Stardust Memories
, Hannah and Her Sisters
and, best of all, two films that are stylistically and thematically linked: Husbands and Wives
and Crimes and Misdemeanors
. These last two are incredibly incisive, brilliantly made films, and they rank among Allen's best.
But for me his very best film is 1983's Zelig
, the mock-documentary about Leonard Zelig, a chameleon-like man who had no identity of his own. Zelig
is not only incredibly funny, but a milestone in the mock-doc form. Not because it's believable enough to make viewers think it's an authentic documentary (the movie makes no attempt to hide that it's Allen himself playing Leonard Zelig in its "stock footage"), but because of its absolutely seamless integration of archival footage and newly shot film.