The odd thing about Woody Allen’s head-down, ignore-the-world, movie-a-year approach is that every now and then he makes a film that connects broadly, and by the time he learns that he has a hit, he’s already got another movie in the can (and one in his typewriter). If Allen had waited until after 1986’s sprawling family dramedy Hannah And Her Sisters became one of his most popular films before making a follow-up, would he have tried to replicate its success? If so, would that have detracted from what makes Hannah And Her Sisters so special? I personally think the stretch of work Allen did between 1983 to 1987—the five pictures from Zelig through Radio Days—is his best, because of the level of variety and imagination. Yet while Hannah is probably my third-favorite of that quintet, it’s really the anchor film, because it’s the most “normal.” It’s Allen at his most relatable and crowd-pleasing, following three siblings (played by Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, and Dianne Weist) over the course of two tumultuous years. The movie balances funny, anecdotal moments with the larger story of relationship and career struggles. Allen moves around a huge cast and a lot of story in just over 100 minutes, and finds a way to maneuver them naturally toward an unexpectedly upbeat ending. When I was a teenage Woody Allen fan, I didn’t trust Hannah And Her Sisters because it seemed too happy. As I get older, I treasure it more and more (though Radio Days is still my favorite). Hannah And Her Sisters airs on TCM tonight at 9:15 p.m. Eastern.
May 15, 2014 newsreel