Deconstructing Woody: The Woody Allen festival

Renewed accusations of sexual abuse (the first round was in the early ’90s) have cast a pall over America’s greatest director of European art-house films. Did he attack Dylan Farrow, age seven, in Mia Farrow’s attic? Were his early attentions toward Soon-Yi Previn, another of Farrow’s adopted daughters and now his wife, fatherly or predatory? The charges are horrifying: they create in viewers the same anxiety we see in Allen’s ever-rotating cast of claustro­phobes and schlemiels. Whatever truth may yet emerge, Dylan remains victimized by her past and the Oscar run for Blue Jasmine — Allen’s 44th film in as many years — is threatened in the present. It’s a funny time to reconsider the work of Allen, 78, as the Vancouver International Film Festival would have us do in a spring-themed program of six films itemized (summer and fall groupings follow later this year), but then…he’s a funny guy.









What’s New Pussycat? (1965)  One sexual deviant (played by  Peter Sellers) counsels another (Peter O’Toole) in Allen’s first credited role as actor and writer. Repetitive, manic, ridiculous,  lyrical, girl-crazy.

Bananas (1971)  A political satire that’s aged wonderfully, about an American slacker (Allen) who winds up running a dictatorship. Second wife Louise Lasser played his love interest.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (1972)  Before the Internet, people were apparently afraid to ask — or afraid of what they might learn from — questions like “What is sodomy?” According to this multipart charmer: what drove Gene Wilder to Woolite.

Annie Hall (1977)  The quintessential Allen film — “Just about everyone’s favorite,” Roger Ebert once said — won four Oscars. For a movie about breakup and misunderstanding, it is endearingly romantic.

Wild Man Blues (1997)  A backstage doc about a set of 1996 European gigs. (Allen plays clarinet with a small big band.) Fascinating for the light shone on his relationships with sister Letty Aronson and wife Soon-Yi Previn.

Midnight in Paris (2011)  Sweetly sentimental hymn to Paris in the rain, the laconic charms of Owen Wilson, being true to oneself, art trumping commerce, the sexiness of the past, and living in the now. Which is all we’ve got.

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