Thursday, June 16, 2011
(December 1997, U.S.)
The first memory I recall with Woody Allen's DECONSTRUCTING HARRY is that I was able to catch a sneak preview of it as part of a film discussion class I was taking at the time. The second thing that comes to mind is that, in my opinion, it's the last great film of Allen's career. Nothing else of his that I've seen since has done very much for me.
This film tells the story of successful writer Harry Block (played by Allen himself), who draws inspiration from people he knows in real-life, and from events that happened to him, sometimes causing these people to become alienated from him as a result. Alienated, hell - some of them want to kill him! Character development is more than just something on a printed page here. We get to see, first hand, what these characters look like, their actions and how each of them directly relates to someone in Block's real life. Allen's character, like so many of his other films, is a neurotic, pill-popping disfunctional man who is incapable of any real intimacy with anyone other than his little boy and also incapable of funtioning in real life, which is why he chooses fiction and the imaginary worlds it can create. The real life we do get to watch is about as outrageous as the fiction he creates, though. The fact that he's driving to a university from which he was once thrown out, in order to receive an honorary degree, with a hooker he just spent the night with is already ridiculous. The fact that by the time he arrives there he also has a dead body in his car is just plain Woody Allen comic insanity. It could only happen to him, right?
I have to note for the record that DECONSTRUCTING HARRY is probably the most racy and vulgar of his entire career (rated R). There's profanity, female nudity and more than one suggestion of a blowjob. Not that I have anything against profanity, female nudity or (especially) blowjobs, mind you, it's just not what you'd traditionally expect in a Woody Allen film. We're definitely not watching SLEEPER or ANNIE HALL here! That aside, though, the film is honest, sad and a revealing one about a very and creative writer. It's funny, witty, and also depressing, as well. There are moments of pure, laugh-out-loud humor (i.e.. the elevator going down to the bottom floor of Hell where they apparently have air conditioning to fuck up the ozone layer). Fantasy plays a major role in the story even though it's not classified as a fantasy. The parallels between Woody Allen himself and the characters and plot he's created here are more than obvious to those who know his film well.
One flaw, in my opinion: the jerky jump cuts in the filming style are not worthy of Allen's talents and abilities to film and tell stories about PEOPLE. I expect this sort of cheap effects tactic from a director like Tony Scott or someone who's more interested in action and special effects. But hey, that's just me!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Helen (saying a Hebrew prayer before giving her husband a blowjob): "Boray P'ree Ha blowjob."