Watching All Of Woody Allen’s Films In Order: Prehistory

Now, obviously by concentrating on the films, I've neglected to mention Woody's long career before Clive Donner made a mess of What's New Pussycat. Luckily, the WFMU's excellent Beware of the Blog has a new article covering that whole era from the records to the television appearances and writing through to Men in Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story:
"Allen had his first Ed Sullivan appearance in 1962. He would appear regularly but had an amusing dust up with the famous host in 1966. During the afternoon rehearsal, Sullivan, notorious for his stone faced reactions and stonewalling of certain comedic material, shot down one of Allen's bits. Woody had been fooling around during his run through, not wanting to waste his act on a small crowd of distracted crew members and the tough crowd of Ed Sullivan. At one point during his piece he inserted the phrase "orgasmic insurance," which he had not actually planned on saying during the broadcast. Sullivan stopped the rehearsal and gave Allen a tongue lashing. The host of America's most popular variety show turned red and flustered, "It's an attitude like yours that is responsible for young men burning their draft cards!"
Here's a random clip from UK television recorded a couple of years later:

Plug!: The Duke of York Brighton's 100th birthday project

Film Like most buildings, cinemas have a social history quite apart from the films it has hosted. I know a couple of you live in Brighton, and know The Duke of York very well, so this press release is for you:
The hunt is on... UK's oldest cinema kick-starts centenary celebrations

Brighton's Duke of York's theatre launches its centenary celebrations with a quest for the best movie memorabilia.

A nationwide hunt to find the quirkiest memories from the last century of the UK's oldest cinema has been launched in honour of its 100th birthday.

The Duke of York's theatre, located in Brighton, East Sussex, celebrates 100 years of continuous film screening on 22 September this year.

The Duke of York's Community Archive Project aims to amass 100 sound or film clips of memories, one for each of the 100 years of its operation, and build a physical archive of social snapshots from across the past century with ticket stubs, film posters press clippings and old photographs.

As one of the top independent arts cinemas in the UK, the Duke of York's cinema has seen more than 25 million audience members through its doors over the past years.

Famous patrons of the picture house include music and film artist Nick Cave and actor, director and screenwriter Paddy Considine. Visitors to the cinema have included filmmakers Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, the Coen Brothers and Michael Moore.

Frank Gray, Director of Screen Archive South East and the University of Brighton, comments: "For me, the Duke of York's represents a very important home for cultural cinema. Unlike most cinemas that only focus on the new, the popular and the American, the Dukes represents that other place; the place where you see films from the rest of the world as well as archive films and work made by artists. As such, it serves as a real beacon for cultural cinema. This is what I value and treasure."

The search for the best movie memorabilia will be launched with a night of "Show and Tell" on Thursday 18 March at the Brighton Jubilee Library. Cinema fanatics are encouraged to don the black and white striped tights in honour of the Duke of York's famous stripy-legged statue.

The Duke of York's Community Archive Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, is seeking an army of volunteers to help gather as many memories as possible in advance of the theatre's birthday. Those interested in volunteering for the project should call 01273 641 947 or email

In addition to the launch evening, a website has been created in honour of the Centenary to give people the opportunity to upload their thoughts and images. Visitors to the site,, will have the chance to contribute to a film forum and post their experiences.

People wishing to contribute memorabilia or volunteer memories should contact 01273 641 947 or email

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  • Irony.

    Life I had planned to write about Michael Moore’s new film Capitalism: A Love Story this evening (short review – he’s right), but instead I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a bit baroque, there are eddys and gaps and there isn’t a middle, ending or beginning, and isn't really about anything, there's no moral, but it was it is and here it is.

    Since the beginning of the last decade, my main television, that is the one which I’ve done most of my television film watching, has been a 26” wide-screen CRT Beko. It worked doggedly, tirelessly, far longer than you would expect a modern television to, outliving its own remote control and analogue broadcasts in the Granada region.

    Recently it was beginning to show its age, the sound lacking the old punch, the edges of the images shimmering slightly, with some exciting ghosting depending on what time of day it was turned on. But since I’m generally of the opinion that if something isn’t quite broken it’s not worth replacing, I let it splutter on for a few more months.

    I was attached to it, sentimental even. Silly.

    Even more recently I began looking about on-line for a new flatscreen television. I couldn’t really afford it and it went against all my principles but in this consumerist society even the least consumerist of us can get an itch. That’s what led me to buy a notebook with my Christmas money.

    Eventually, my itch localised itself on this Toshiba 32” HD LCD television at Richer Sound. I had the page saved in my favourites and I’d look at it now and then, the tiny cartoon angel and devil that Tex Avery et al suppose sit on our shoulders in these moments of indecision, fighting each other for supremacy.

    “Buy” said the devil. “You don’t need one” said the angel. For weeks more they argued, and all the while I’d look at that page, working out the logistics of how I was going to pay for it, where I would find the £329 price tag. Eventually the finances clicked into place and on Sunday, the devil skewered the angel with his fork and I took the decision to buy.

    On Monday, early, my Dad and I turned up at the shop to collect the television (having phoned ahead to check that they have them in stock). After some further prevaricating over the fact that there was no cooling off period, no refunds (it’s important you remember this) and whether an LG television which was in stock and the same price would be a better purchase – I decided to stick with my first choice, paid the money and brought it home.

    Monday was spent plumbing the thing in, trying out the usually dvds (Lord of the Rings, Firefly) and watching Woody Allen’s Zelig (a review of that coming soon too). The sound wasn’t great, but the picture quality from an up-scaled dvd seemed miraculous, not really worse than CRT just different, apparently clearer the further you sat away from it.

    As is the way of these things, the poor Beko was out of the door within minutes, the tube technology which had served me (and us) so well over the years, consigned to history. And so it was that I began to view my flatscreen future, knowing that it wouldn’t be too long before the itch began again and I’d be the owner of a blu-ray player to go underneath.

    On Tuesday, yesterday, I went to Manchester. With that certain story in the media, I decided to get out of the house since I knew that I’d otherwise spend the whole day in front of the computer watching the drama unfold (in case you’re not a regular reader of my twitter feed, I tend to become rather, um, passionate about these kinds of things).

    I bought some Mother’s Day presents. Also, Joanna Newsom’s first two albums. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist on dvd. Watched the aforementioned documentary about the end of civilisation as we know it – or what felt like it. Watched an emotionally over extended man nearly being arrested at the station for bawling at a ticket inspector.

    At home, I set about cooking some sausages for tea. Meanwhile I checked my email. One in particular caught my attention. It began …
    Hi stuart

    I have been passed your details as the winner re-below …
    One of my addictions is online competitions. It’s something constructive to do whilst listening to podcasts as well as listening and sometimes, just sometimes, I might win a dvd. It transpired I’d won £500’s worth of clothing at 80s Retro Classics. Lots of tracksuits, trainers. There was a nice bag, shoes. Lovely.

    The emailer had been sent my details by a publicity company. The only problem (if you can call this kind of nice surprise a problem) was I didn’t really remember entering a competition for clothes. I checked through the rest of the correspondence, which was appended to the bottom of the email and I realised quite quickly that it was this competition, run by Shortlist magazine.

    It was run in association with the dvd release of The Firm, the recent remake Alan Clarke’s film about football hooliganism, this time starring Doctor Who’s Camille Coduri amongst others. It’s set in the 80s, hence the tracksuits in primary colours. Very quickly I realised why I’d entered the competition.

    As well as the clothes, also on offer was a 42” television and dvd player. Favouring a complex strategy, I’d also entered a couple of competitions, more as a joke than anything. These contests are passed around discussion boards online quite a lot so there are thousands of entrants.

    The big shiny gold forefinger was never likely to point in my direction but I what was the harm? Except, the big shiny gold forefinger had pointed in my direction and the clothes were in the post. But it wasn’t clear whether I had won the television. It seemed like three different prizes to me. I think can already see where this is going.

    This morning there was a card in our postbox. From a dispatch company. “We tried to deliver two parcels but no one was in. Here’s a dispatch number. We’ll try again tomorrow.” I had nothing else on order. It could have been a different competition. I’d had no notification …

    When you look at 42” televisions in department stores, they don’t look that big. Perhaps its because you’re standing quite a long way away from them, or you’re diverting your eyes from whichever horrendous film is being used to showcase its charms, usually directed by Michael Bay.

    When you look at a 42” television in your own room, it’s massive. It’s a behemoth. Monolithic. Even if your room is designed, like mine, so that no single element takes precedence, even during its repose, your eyes are drawn to its anonymous black surfaces because you can’t quite believe that someone designed a piece of plastic that big to show moving pictures.

    So, having on Monday gone out and treated myself to the 32” flat-screen television I coveted but didn’t really need, just two days later, I now also have another one. Oh, indeed, the irony. My inability to make a decision had led me to toss a coin on Sunday. The coin told me to wait. That's what probably I gave in.

    I'm terribly excited about this new new possession, but it's tempered with the fact that if I hadn't given in the itch, I might have been even more thrilled or surprised. As I said, there isn't really a moral to this story, if it's even a story, other than platitudes like whatever happens, happens. Life is strange.

    Unable to get a refund, I’ve given the 32” to my parents on extended loan. They had a 26” before which is now in their bedroom through necessity. And this 42” LG refugee from a Kubrick film sits in my room almost as big as some of the screens in the old 051 cinema.

    And the dvd player turned out to be a blu-ray player. I have one those now too.

    Its been a busy three days.

    Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: Stardust Memories (1980)

    Then Stardust Memories had a profound effect on me when I first watched it in the library at Leeds Metropolitan University in 1995, especially the opening scene. Apart from the implication that we’re all on the wrong train and the party always seems to be happening elsewhere, there’s the moment when a young Sharon Stone blows a kiss to the camera. I’ve since realised that there isn’t a Sharon Stone film that I don’t like. Yes, even The Specialist. And Basic Instinct 2. And that other one you’re thinking of.


    Stuart Ian Burns

    MA Screen Studies

    Research Outline

    “How has Woody Allen’s interest in the 'metafictional style' developed across his autobiographical films to accommodate changes in content and context?”

    [When I was preparing my MA dissertation at university, I made life difficult for myself by choosing one topic, researching and writing a proposal, then throwing it out and deciding to do something else, researching and writing another proposal the following week. The resulting dissertation was about Hyperlink Cinema. The first proposal was about Woody Allen, and more specifically the metafictional aspects of his films. Here it is … warts and all …]


    “Since Allen is popularly considered to be one of the most explicitly autobiographical film-makers of his generation, the scrutiny of his films for insights to their creator has intensified since the scandal of his split from long term lover Mia Farrow and his marriage to her stepdaughter, Soon Yi.” (Jones, 2003)

    This quote, which appeared as part of a profile of the director Woody Allen for the BBC News website demonstrates incisively the public perception that assumes that the narratives of the director’s films include or are directly influenced by incidents in the director’s own life. This is even the case within critical analysis.

    Allen often refutes these claims. But throughout his career the director has employed various filmmaking techniques and narrative structures which cannot help but to increase this impression. The most conspicuous of these is the ‘metanarrative’ or ‘metafictional’ style (Pogel, 1987:133). In her seminal work on the subject, Metafiction (1988), Patricia Waugh defines this as ‘a term given to fictional writing which self-consciously and systematically draws attention to its status as an artefact in order to pose questions about the relationship between fiction and reality’ (Waugh, 1988:2).

    Although these concepts have generally been applied to prose, various facets of this style appear in many of his films if the scope is widened to encompass the use of the mise-en-scene and sound as well as writing. Such elements would include the use of a narrator, and often an ‘unreliable narrator’, a description first developed by Wayne C. Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) as a way of distinguishing the truthfulness of some fictions in relation to how the story is described. Equally present is a protagonist (often played by himself) who is clearly meant to be a personal embodiment within the narrative and in a close approximation of Mikhail Bakhtin’s Diagolism he comments on his own creative and filmmaking ability as well as letting other characters argue or disagree with him (Stam, 1989:197).

    This dissertation will examine how aspects of metafiction have been employed within those films of Woody Allen’s career that suggestively have an autobiographical content and also exhibit a similar style. The romantic comedy, Annie Hall (1977) is reputed to be the most personally evocative – it pursues ‘more serious substantial themes while giving vent to the personal complexes that hitherto he’d aired only to live audience as a stand-up comedian’ (Cowie, 1996:10) and is arguable to most clearly metafictional in its use of voiceover, flashbacks, addresses to camera, fantasy sequences and post-modernism. Stardust Memories (1980) is an excursion into his own filmmaking career and techniques that also ‘forces viewers to be engaged spectators – to be aware of the film as construction and to become conscious of audiences’ participation in creating their film experiences’ (Pogel, 1987:133). Although less critically respected than much of the director’s work, Deconstruction Harry (1997) nevertheless utilises a fluid combination of the approaches seen in these earlier films in the story of a novelist thinly fictionalising incidents from his own life some of which are portrayed in fantasy sequences and moments in which the character is addressed by the fictional constructs themselves.

    The primary difficulty in approaching the subject of Woody Allen is that a vast range of critical writing has already been published in relation to his career. An initial survey of the literature suggests that although metafiction as a concept is mentioned, with a few notable exceptions (for example in the writing of Michael Dunne), this methodology does not appear to have been explored in very great detail. It is also apparent that the writing in general concentrates more on Allen’s earlier work with less emphasis on those films which have appeared in later decades. This project would seek to redress the balance, contextualising Deconstructing Harry within the same critical terms as Annie Hall and Stardust Memories. Comparisons can be sought between all of these films but the direct similarities in technique between them would not appear to have been uncovered; the unreliable narrator within Deconstructing Harry for example, being an area that would profit from further investigation.

    In all of these films the director addresses his audience directly to a greater or lesser extent and this is the reason that they are thought of as being autobiographical. It would also be worth investigating to what degree Woody Allen is using metafiction to deflect attention away from the detail of his own life by presenting a seemingly plausible substitute. Gerald Prince suggests that ‘metanarrative signs may lead us by indirection to a valid reading of a particular text. For it may happen that, instead of acting as aids to a proper decoding they constitute an obstacle to it’ (Prince, 1995:67). Could Deconstructing Harry be an attempt to confirm the expectations of his audience, that his films are a thinly veiled fictionalisation of his own life, even though that which has been presented on screen is entirely fictional?

    Chapter Outline

    Chapter One

    Introduce the key writers and theorists regarding metafictonal narrative techniques including unreliable narration; relate those to a wider film studies context with reference to films in which they have been employed.

    Chapter Two

    A textual analysis of the films in consideration, describing how Allen is applying the structures of metafiction, with emphasis on writing, editing, mise-en-scene, narrative, music and characterisation, comparing and contrasting how these have changed depending upon the subject matter.

    Chapter Three

    A reception study into the impact of the films, publicly, critically and within the wider filmmaking community. This will include a discussion of how clearly they are perceived to be autobiographic or whether the director has successfully created a fiction to deflect the audience from the real truth.

    Timetable of Research and Writing

    February – May 2006

    Critical reading on subject and textual analysis. Includes survey of writing on metafiction investigating texts which have already applied the concept to other forms of cinema and viewing of related films. This will include a visit to the British Film Institute’s archive.

    May – July 2006

    Writing of first draft of dissertation in consultation with tutor.

    July – August 2006

    Polishing of the dissertation, including extra research were necessary



    Annie Hall. 1977. Production: Rollins-Joffe Productions. 93 mins. Directed by Woody Allen.

    Stardust Memories. 1980. Production: Jean Rollins-Joffe Productions, United Artists. 91 mins. Directed by Woody Allen.

    Deconstructing Harry. 1997. Production: Jean Doumanian Productions, Sweetland Films. 96 mins. Directed by Woody Allen.


    Booth, Wayne C. 1961. The Rhetoric of Fiction. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

    Bjorkman, Stig. 2004. Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In conversation with Stig Bjorkman. Faber and Faber, London.

    Cowie, Peter. 1996. Annie Hall: BFI Film Classics. BFI Publishing, London.

    Curry, Renee R. 1996. Perspectives on Woody Allen. Prentice Hall International, London.

    Deleyto, C. 1995. The Narrator And The Narrative - The Evolution Of Allen. Woody Film Comedies. In. Film Criticism 19:2 Winter.

    Dresser, David Desser and Lester D Friedman. 2004. American Jewish Filmmakers. University of Illinois Press, Illinois.

    Dunne, Michael. 1987. Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and the Tradition of Metafiction. In. Film Criticism 12:1.

    Dunne, Michael. 1991. Metaleptical Hijinks in Woody Allen's Stardust Memories. In. Literature/Film Quarterly. 19:2 April.

    Fell, John L. 1974. Film and the Narrative Tradition. University of Oklahoma Press, Oklahoma.

    Girgus, Sam B. 2002. The films of Woody Allen: 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Jones, Chris. 2003. Woody Allen: French kissing in the USA. BBC News. Available at: Accessed on 14 February 2006.

    King, Kimball. 2001. Woody Allen: A Casebook. Routledge, London.

    Lee, Sander H. 2002. 18 Woody Allen Films Analyzed: Anguish, God and Existentialism. McFarland & Company, North Carolina.

    Polhemus, Robert M. 2003. Screen Memories in Dickens and Woody Allen. In. Dickens on screen. Edited by John Glavin. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

    Prince, Gerald. 1995. Metanarrative Signs. In Metafiction. Edited and Introduced by Mark Currie. Longman Group Limited, Essex.

    Propp, Vladimir. 1969. Morphology of the folk tale: 2nd ed. revised and edited with a preface by Louise A. Wagner. University of Texas Press, Texas.

    Rubin-Dorsky, Jeffrey. 2003. Woody Allen after the fall: literary gold from amoral alchemy. In. Shofar, 22:1 Fall.

    Schickel, Richard. 2004. Woody Allen: A Life In Pictures. Ivan R Dee, Inc., Chicago

    Stam, Robert. 1989. Subversive Pleasures: Bakhtin, Cultural Criticism and Film. The John Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.

    Thomson, David. 1998. Shoot the actor. In. Film Comment 34:2 March.

    Turner, Graeme. Film as Social Practice. Second Edition. Routledge, London.

    Various. 1998. Deconstructing Woody - A Critical Symposium on Woody Allen. In.
    Cinéaste 23:3 , April.

    Wagg, Stephen. 1998. Because I Tell A Joke or Two: Comedy, Politics and Social Difference. Routledge, London.

    Waugh, Patricia. 1988. Metafiction : the theory and practice of self-conscious fiction. Routledge, London.


    British Film Institute:
    Press books, promotional materials, screenplays, archival review and journalistic materials.

    World Wide Web

    Film Index International:

    The Internet Movie Database:

    Woody Allen: A Bibliography of Materials in the UC Berkeley Library:

    Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: Manhattan (1979)

    Then Manhattan is another film I’ve lived with for so long that it’s difficult for me remember when I first clapped eyes on it, though I like to think it was during Channel 4’s Christmas in New York season in the early nineties, when they were still my favourite television channel and would have seasons like Christmas in New York. My impression is that it was also part of their early experiments with showing films in the widescreen format on broadcast television along with 2001: A Space Odyssey. Which means my first experience was as a small black and white strip across the tiny 14” Matsui portable in my bedroom. Which was still enough to lead me to have the film’s poster on my wall for the next ten years.

    Now Though my connection to Manhattan is something approaching devotional it’s quite some time since I sat down to watch the film from opening to closing. At some point, I found myself in a reticence loop, in which, as I grew older I didn’t want to see the film again in case it wasn’t the unimpeachable masterpiece the younger version of me supposed it was. Farewell My Concubine is also a favourite film but I’ve only seen that once, on its original release, because I know that with all the world cinema I’ve seen in the interim, the chances are that there will be elements that I’m not quite as enamoured with, that it won't be as good as the version I have in my head.

    But I’m very pleased to report, after passing through again late the other night, that Manhattan remains a remarkable piece of work, visually arresting and beautiful acted and despite its short running time a monumental piece of filmmaking. I can still, to paraphrase somewhat, “idolise it out of all proportion”. From the opening montage sequence investigating the highlights of the city’s landscape and people through to Muriel Hemingway's final reminder “You have to have a little faith in people”, not one section is out of place, not one moment rings untrue.

    Of course it’s fantasy, of course it glosses over the problems of any real metropolis, reducing Manhattan to people kissing against architecture and tourist spots to a Gershwin soundtrack, increasing transcontinental, intercontinental and transatlantic travel and a run on vinyl Rhapsody in Blue recordings in the process. But Woody’s trick is to take a relatively simple story of a love triangle (quadrangle) then use Gordon Willis’s photography to paint it in epic terms. In that way it reminds me of a Victorian painting, lush and painterly compositions employed at the service of some fairly obvious melodrama. Robert Hopper too, I suppose.

    And Willis’s bold black and white photography is the star. Those opening shots could have been ripped from a photo spread in Time Magazine were they not moving but at no point is he content to let the characters simply sit in rooms expressing their feelings. The first semi-date between Allen and Diane Keaton mostly happens in a planetarium were they’re reduced to silhouettes punctuated by starlight. As with much of his work, quite properly the photography reflects the inner turmoil of the characters even in films that are ostensibly comedies. We can see the progress of Allen’s growing lack of self confidence his the way his apartments are shot changes.

    Initially we see Allen and Mariel Hemmingway snuggling up together in bed in extreme longshot in a cavernous apartment, his progress from a winding staircase to the sleeping area beautifully rendered in pools of light as though he’s stepping into her glow. Later, after he quits his job and has to move into what amounts to a bedsit, the camera and so we can barely fit into the room with them, his confidence broken by the dirty water and random noise of his neighbours, the whole thing shot in ugly, bland grey light all subtlety destroyed.

    The appearance of Meryl Streep initially seems fairly incongruous and an example of Allen casting outside of his usual repertory of actors. In fact, she was already a veteran of New York's Public Theater (I would have loved to have seen her Isabella in Measure for Measure) and it’s more another example, like Walken, of Allen selecting an actor very early in their career and somehow manage to give them the kind of role which would define that career. Amazing to think this was the same year as Kramer vs. Kramer. Disappointing to note that neither of these films would even be financed at the cinema now.

    This was also the final Woody Allen film for Diane Keaton, bar the Radio Days cameo until 1993’s Manhattan Murder Mystery. I’m sure there’s a biography somewhere that enunciates in great detail the reasons why their working relationship broke down, perhaps mentioning Warren Beatty a lot, but in terms of what’s up there on the screen the idiotic part of my brain which likes to trade in tittle-tattle and pop psychology wonders if it’s one of the reasons that Woody didn’t feature a relationship for himself on such an even keel many times during the eighties, even in the Mia films.

    He told Stig Bjorkman that once Manhattan was completed, he wanted to stop the studio releasing the film, and has said elsewhere he even considered destroying the print. That would have been an utter tragedy and with due respect to him, an act of cultural vandalism. Artists are the worst judges of their own work, and Woody it seems is usually wrong. We’ll talk some more about this when I reach September (the film, not the month you’ll be pleased to know). Never mind other people, he should have had a little faith in himself.

    Tip boxes for newspapers.

    Newspapers I've just posted this idea to CurryBet Martin's feedback post about The Observer:
    "How about a tip box?

    Many blogs offers the ability to voluntarily pay the blogger or website for the content -- there'll be a Paypal button and you can send jkottke or the Wikipedia a fiver for offering some entertainment or knowledge or both.

    Why doesn't The Guardian try something similar? Or how about a voluntary subscription by direct debit set by the reader? I've you've enjoyed this post by Charlie Brooker, how about helping to pay his salary?

    Often I'll buy a copy of the paper if I'm out and about but it'll sit unopened because I've read the content online. But I really don't mind spending the money because I know that one won't necessarily exist much longer without the other.

    I'd gladly set up a DD to pay ten pounds or whatever a month to cover the days I don't go near the newsagents but want to pass on a donation."

    Watching all of Woody Allen's films in order: Interiors (1978)

    Then As an alternative to my usually foggy memory as when exactly I watched some of these films, I can confidently tell you that I first view Interiors on the 22nd March 2004 because I noted it down ready for this blog's end of year review in which I listed everything seen on television and in film (and something things listened to) during the preceding twelve months. It was on the same day as a BBC World Service documentary about the world wide web, Two Weeks Notice and Shadows & Fog. I’ve subsequently said some very nasty things about that whole endeavour, but on reflection it’s a fascinating snapshot of my tastes from then. They haven’t changed much at all.

    Now In hindsight it’s easy to see that Interiors was the expression of a auteur wanting to communicate his ideas through a different tone, the rest of the decade bringing a stream of relatively sophisticated comedies. But after Annie Hall, audiences and critics might have suspected this was actually an unwelcome change of direction, that Woody had moved on to a completely different phase in his career. If Manhattan had already been mentioned in Variety, reader might have had a clue about the tone. As Allen tells Bjorkman:
    “people were so shocked and so disappointed with me that I broke my contract with them […] and particularly with this kind of drama […] they felt there was a solemnity to it, which I like in films. […] And then let’s not forget this was the first time I did a drama, so my lack of experience and skills didn’t help me […] There were people who accused me of bad faith.”
    Perhaps if he’d offered them something with a certain amount of levity – to an extent Hannah And Her Sisters is the same thing with more jokes (three sisters, emotional trauma, Sam Waterson) – the audience might have been more forgiving. But from the opening moments in which Waterson’s work is interrupted by his mother-in-law’s interior decorating meltdown – the kind of polite cruelty that was the cornerstone of Ozu’s work is plastered across the walls of every scene.

    The editing is stately, Willis’s photography claustrophobic and when characters are granted leave to smile, perhaps after seeing a remarkable card trick, it’s undercut by a disapproving glance from across the room. This late 70s audience was also expected to accept the serious version of Diana Keaton in the Woody Allen universe after Annie Hall had apparently encapsulated and defined her screen presence. From what I can see, only Roger Ebert was willing to accept this short detour for what it was.

    The trailer can't have helped either ...

    ... which is to some extent counter-productive. When we here that Gene Shalit of NBCtv calls it "A masterpiece. It ranks with the finest films ever made. A work of art. You must see it" we're expecting something fairly majestic. Cut to two people in a room wining at each other. To an extent that undoubtedly prepares the audience, explains to them this isn't typical Woody Allen nonsense, but in this and the rest of the quotes there an over extension, an increase in expectation that no film could deliver on.

    Despite that the film, both in style and content would go one to influence a range of filmmakers from Whit Stillman to Noah Baumbach, with everything from Barcelona to The Squid and the Whale revisiting the lives of these kinds of pseudo-intellectuals that Woody characterises as “Ozymandia Melancholic”, figures on the cusp of realising that art doesn’t save you. Again in the Bjorkman interview he notes:
    “art to me has always been entertainment for intellectuals, Mozart or Rembrandt of Shakespeare are entertainers on a very high level. It’s a level that brings a great sense of excitement, stimulation and fulfilment to people who are sensitive and cultivated but it doesn’t save the artist.”
    The key scene occurs when the father presents his new wife to his daughters and their significant others. Their mother, a giant matriarch has been reduced to a confused emotional cripple with suicidal tendencies and been replaced by a woman who to them seems uneducated. She’s already talked about international travel but can’t articulate what she’s seen and says things like “once you’ve seen one church …” and does nothing to measure up to the person their father has cast aside.

    Since you’re the kind of pseudo-intellectual who watches serious Woody Allen films inspired by Chekhov and O’Neill and thought yourself clever enough to laugh at all the jokes in Annie Hall, up until this point you’ve identified with these characters and you wince along with them. But then at the dinner table as the conversation turns to matters of state and academia you realise that they’re being hopelessly impolite and you begin to question your own feelings of superiority towards “this woman”.

    Then when the youngest sister plants the final blow “She’s a vulgarian” you’re wincing for a completely different reason and you're given an opportunity to look at yourself, and your arrogant superiority, in a different light.