Saturday, September 12, 2009

Deconstructing Harry

Deconstructing Harry; fantasy comedy, USA, 1997; D: Woody Allen, S: Woody Allen, Elisabeth Shue, Kirstie Alley, Billy Crystal, Richard Benjamin, Demi Moore, Judy Davis, Bob Balaban, Tobey Maguire, Jennifer Garner, Paul Giamatti, Stanley Tucci, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Robin Williams

A happily married man has a secret affair with the sister of his wife. During intercourse, their grandmother accidentally enters the room, but since she is blind, she doesn't notice anything...That's the scene from the novel of the nihilistic writer Harry, but his ex-girlfriend Lucy recognized herself in the story and wants to shoot him with a gun. But he tells her a story from his earlier novel, revolving around when he ordered a prostitute for the first time. Lucy laughs and lowers the gun. But she is not the only disgusted Harry's ex-lover: there's also Amy, Jane, his ex-wife Joan and student Fay. They are all victims because he uses their private secrets in his novels. Thus, when he goes on a journey to his former university, where he is to be honoured, only his son, his friend and a prostitute accompany him. There he gets arrested while Fay gets married. Once on freedom, Harry gets inspiration for his new novel.

"Deconstructing Harry" is the most merciless, unusual, uncompromising and "dirty" serious film by Woody Allen in the 90s, a one where even special effects are used whereas events of the characters are mixed with the events of the novels of the title protagonist. Unlike the typical 'neurotic Allen film', here the story is more imaginative: in Harry's novel, Robin Williams plays an actor who is "out of focus", i.e. blurry, so people have to wear glasses to see him sharply, while his children even mock him: "Daddy's out of focus!" Harry and the character who symbolizes him in his novel appear in the same scene. Harry takes an elevator to Hell while the elevator voice makes brilliantly satirical comments ("Floor 6... right-wing extremists, killers, lawyers who appear on TV...Floor 7...the media. Sorry, it's all filled up...Floor 8...escaped war criminals, TV evangelists and the NRA"), and the set design of the actual place in unbelievably detailed, though his interaction with the Devil (Billy Crystal) is slightly lacking inspiration (for instance, Harry tells him he is a bigger sinner then him). The star ensemble is maybe too large to give everybody enough room in the story, but Allen is once again full of inspiration when he drafts a story about the tragicomic hero who can't function in real life and thus, as an artistic soul wrecked by the cruel world, finds refuge in his imaginary novels and their worlds. Untypically including swear words and more "adult" material, Allen showed how he can't be put in a box but that his imagination takes twists that defy any category, resulting in a deliberately restless film, "Deconstructing Harry", which marked the end of his inspiration phase in the mid 90s, since he wouldn't direct an excellent film for 8 years.


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