01 October 2009

NUMBER ONE: "nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands"

As I said earlier, Everyone Says I Love You is not my favourite Woody Allen film. It is a fantastic film, but there is another film that I believe to be pure perfection: Hannah and Her Sisters. This film came out in the middle of Woody's more dramatic period in the 1980s. A lot of people wished that he would revert back to his comedy roots and create films that were more like Sleeper or Annie Hall (another brilliant Woody Allen film), but I have to admit that many of my favourite Woody Allen films were from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, I am a sucker for the dramatic. Hannah and Her Sisters is both witty and emotional, which is a credit to Allen's screenplay and the marvelous cast. The film stars Mia Farrow as the eponymous Hannah, with Barbara Hershey and Dianne Wiest co-starring as her sisters. Michael Caine and Allen himself play supporting roles as Hannah's husband and ex-husband, respectively. The film was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning three for Original Screenplay, Supporting Actor, and Supporting Actress. Woody Allen is my favourite all-time director and although he has made some below-average films in his five decades as a director, Hannah and Her Sisters is above and beyond his best film, and is therefore my number one favourite film.

The film begins and ends on Thanksgiving, two years apart, at a party hosted by Hannah. We learn that Hannah's
husband Elliot (Michael Caine) has been harbouring romantic feelings towards his sister-in-law Lee (Barbara Hershey). He finds Hannah too self-sufficient and is drawn to Lee's fragility. The two eventually begin having an affair, which all passes without Hannah ever believing that her husband is being unfaithful. Mickey (Woody Allen) plays Hannah's ex-husband, a television executive who quits his job due to his hypochondria. He contemplates religious conversion and we watch as he considers Catholicism and the Hare Krishna movement. Holly (Dianne Wiest) is an unsuccessful actress who constantly changes careers and often borrows money from Hannah. She starts a catering company with her friend April (Carrie Fisher) and they meet a man (Sam Waterston). Both women are instantly attracted to him and Holly is devastated when he chooses April. The film progresses through the months and we see the characters change. After two years, when Thanksgiving comes again, the characters have had new revelations and their lives are completely different from who they were at the start of the film.

Hannah and Her Sisters is a film that belongs to its cast. The wonderful actors in this film brings Woody Allen's words to life. Dianne Wiest was completely deserving of her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role of Holly. The first Woody Allen film I ever saw was Bullets Over Broadway, which also won Dianne Wiest an Oscar. That film, which would be my third favourite Woody Allen film, introduced me to his films and to her amazing talent. To this day I am still drawn to films that she is in, regardless of the size of her role. I started to watch In Treatment because she had a supporting role. I must also talk about Michael Caine's brilliant performance. Watching his character Elliot, as he begins an affair with Lee in the scene entited "nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands" shows such a range of emotions that I find it uncomfortable to watch, each and every time. Finally, it is wonderful to watch Maureen O'Sullivan in the role of Hannah's mother, watching Mia Farrow interact with her real life mother. It is a beautiful film to watch. Hannah and Her Sisters is such a perfect film that it will be next to impossible for another film to surpass it.

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