Woody Allen Wednesdays – Deconstructing Harry and Cassandra’s Dream

Every Wednesday, FM writers Simon Columb and Brogan Morris write two short reviews on Woody Allen films … in the hope of watching all his films over the course of roughly 49 weeks. If you have been watching Woody’s films and want to join in, feel free to comment with short reviews yourself! Next up is Deconstructing Harry and Cassandra’s Dream…

Simon Columb on Deconstructing Harry…

Rewind, edit and re-run. Remodel, reconstitute and reconfigure. Memory and films hold many parallels. In Deconstructing Harry, Woody Allen toys with memory and the inspiration one finds for their art. Opening credits is an edited sequence of a woman stepping out of a cab. It’s disorientating, as the film can be, as Deconstructing Harry flips between fictional stories written by Harry (Woody Allen) and Harry’s life itself. This current incarnation has a crisis of identity – he is older and single with one child he can barely visit. The different “stories” he has written, which we see, are “Woody Allen” scenarios. Robin Williams plays an actor who is literally out of focus in one story while Julia Louis Dreyfus and Richard Benjamin are the hyper-sexual lovers interrupted by a blind Grandmother mid-session. Assuming you have asked whether his films are autobiographical in any way, this would be Allen’s insightful, considered answer.

Simon Columb 

Brogan Morris on Cassandra’s Dream…

Like many late-era Woody Allen films, Cassandra’s Dream doesn’t make a coherent whole, but instead can be divided up into positive and negative parts: this time, it’s lead actors and cinematography bad, Philip Glass score and screenplay good. The film as written is an intriguing morality play about two brothers (Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell) who turn to murder to pay off debts induced by living beyond their means, but the final result as directed just seems half-hearted. An uncharacteristically downbeat Farrell isn’t as woefully ineffective as McGregor, but both fail to convince as working class Londoners, or even as brothers. Shame, as the support – particularly from Sally Hawkins, Hayley Atwell and Tom Wilkinson – is superb. Alas, England’s capital just doesn’t seem to suit Allen – photography is as uninspiring as it is on all Woody’s UK-set movies, while his grasp on GB culture is basic at best. A misfire.

Brogan Morris – Lover of film, writer of words, pretentious beyond belief. Thinks Scorsese and Kubrick are the kings of cinema, but PT Anderson and David Fincher are the young princes. Follow Brogan on Twitter if you can take shameless self-promotion.