Sunday, July 26, 2015
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM
(May 1972, U.S.)
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM may be the most Woody Allen film for such a project that was not directed by Woody Allen, though the story is based on Allen's own play and features Allen as the sort of character fans have come to know and love in any film that he stars in; overanxious, neurotic, nervous, paranoid, and constantly freaked out. And like many of his own films that followed, he's supported by Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts as friends and/or love interests that are always slightly more on the ball in terms of normal, everyday functional capabilities. Oh, and also like so many of his other film characters, he's divorced and trying to figure out a way to deal with why the marriage failed. In this case, his wife left him due to the sheer boredom of being married to him (big surprise!) and we're made witness to some of their marital complications through the use of amusing flashbacks.
This particular film that Allen hands to another director, Herbert Ross, is about recently divorced writer of film commentary, Allan Felix, being urged to begin dating again by his best friend and his best friend's wife (Roberts and Keaton). Throughout this film, Allan seems to identify well with the black and white classic film CASABLANCA (1942) and the character of Rick Blaine as played was by Humphrey Bogart, even though he knows he could never be like Bogart. In order to deal with complex relationship issues, Allan repeatedly fantasizes about advice on how to treat women from the movie itself, as well as ghost-like appearances of Bogart himself (played by Jerry Lacy). To such an indulgence, I can only repeat what Allen himself says in ANNIE HALL (1977) - "Boy, if life were only like this." I mean, really, how many of us would just love to be more like our favorite movie heroes (take note all of you men who always wished you were more like Han Solo or Indiana Jones!)??
When it comes to women, dating and sex, Allan is the sort that is repeatedly putting on a false mask for them and then covering up his inadequacies with humorous antics and dialogue. The scene in which he tries to defend his date's honor against a couple of bar bikers is particularly funny when he tells them he doesn't want any trouble because he has to be up early the next morning to go to Temple (that's a great big Jewish LOL!!!). The one woman he does feel naturally comfortable with is the wife of his best friend (Keaton). Why not? She's non-threatening and on the surface, he doesn't have romantic tendencies toward her...not at first. When the point comes that he does make a move on her (with Bogart's help), it's a big surprise to learn that she's actually receptive to his affections and they do end up sleeping together. Here's just an idea of what that pre-sexual situation looks like on the screen...
Her husband, a neglectful businessman, is the sort who's constantly telling his answering service exactly what phone number he can be reached at and for exactly how long...and this is only 1972 (Geez, can you imagine what this guy would be like during today's modern age of iPhones and social medias??)! Her infidelity can only be expected from being married to such a man, and because the opposite attraction is Woody Allen, well then, she'll naturally end up screwing him. Such an affair as this is ultimately meant to turn into a complicated love triangle in which one man will end up going home without the prize. Hey, is it starting to sound a whole lot like CASABLANCA without the Nazis?? Of course! That's the whole comedic point of the film. Life imitates art both in content and resolution, ending with an almost identical allusion to the ending of CASABLANCA in which Allan gives up the woman he loves because if she doesn't stay with her husband, she'll regret it...maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of her life. And then, of course, Allan and "Bogey" walk off together in the midst of the beginning of a "beautiful friendship". Ah, as time goes by!
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM can easily be lumped into that period of Allen classics that the man himself has come to identify as "his early, funny movies", even before hilarious riots like SLEEPER (1973) and LOVE AND DEATH (1975). The fact that it's (technically) a Herbert Ross film is something I need to constantly remind myself of because I've strictly related his own work with more subtle comedies like THE GOODBYE GIRL (1977), CALIFORNIA SUITE (1978) and MAX DOUGAN RETURNS (1983). So as I began with, it may be someone else's film in credits, but the film is pure Woody Allen as we've all come to love him and laugh at him. Perhaps this project was more like the Steven Spielberg/Tobe Hooper relationship in the original POLTERGEIST (and coming real soon to this blog!). Who knows.
Favorite line or dialogue:
Allan Felix: "That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it?"
Museum Girl: "Yes, it is."
Allan: "What does it say to you?"
Museum Girl: "It restates the negativeness of the universe. The hideous lonely emptiness of existence. Nothingness. The predicament of Man forced to live in a barren, Godless eternity like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void with nothing but waste, horror and degradation, forming a useless bleak straitjacket in a black absurd cosmos.
Allan: "What are you doing Saturday night?"
Museum Girl: "Committing suicide."
Allan: "What about Friday night?"