With Woody Allen’s new movie Blue Jasmine hitting screens this weekend, several outlets have taken the opportunity to rank Allen’s extensive filmography. Your film editor was planning to do the same (and I’d have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids) — particularly since I’m revisiting the entire Allen oeuvre for my new book on his films, due next year from Voyageur Press. But instead of taking on that job (which, lets face it, usually ends up with some cluster of Annie Hall, Manhattan, Purple Rose of Cairo, and Crimes and Misdemeanors at the top anyway), let’s take a look at some of Allen’s less-recognized works.
Because he’s directed so damn many films (46 and counting), you can chunk them out fairly easily: the recognized classics (see above), the ones that were received with hostility or indifference at the time but have come to be recognized as classics (Stardust Memories and Deconstructing Harry leap to mind), the “early, funny ones” (Take the Money and Run, Sleeper, Bananas, etc.), and, sorry, the bad ones (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, September). Our interest here is the ones that fall in between: not necessarily his best stuff, but better than their reputations, worthy of consideration and viewing, particularly if you’re ready to move past the obvious choices. Some suggestions:
Shadows and Fog
This 1992 film marked the end of his fruitful relationship with Orion Pictures, which filed for bankruptcy right around the time of its release, and was thus unable to do much for it in the way of promotion. The timing was unfortunate: the $14 million production was one of Woody’s most elaborate, including the construction of a giant set (the largest ever built in New York, he said) at the Astoria studios in Queens. The picture, based on his early one-act play Death, is a bit uneven. But it’s one of his most stylish and beautiful films, the gorgeous black-and-white photography and German Expressionist-inspired composition combining to make it one of his most unique efforts.