Allen approaches his material as a very bright, ironic, fussy, fearful outsider; his constant complaint is that it's all very well for these people to engage in their lives and plans and adulteries, because they do not share his problem, which is that he sees through everything, and what he sees on the other side of everything is certain death and disappointment.
Hannah and Her Sisters is structured ingeniously so that seemingly separate stories eventually merge in satisfying ways.
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Allen admits the role of Hannah was based on Farrow being "a romanticised perception of Mia. She's very stable, she has eight children now, and she's able to run her career and have good relationships with her sister and her mother. I'm very impressed with those qualities and I thought if she had two unstable sisters it would be interesting."
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Farrow wrote that "It was the first time I criticised one of his scripts. To me, the characters seemed self-indulgent and dissolute in predictable ways. The script was wordy but it said nothing." She claims "Woody didn't disagree and tried to switch over to" an alternative idea "but preproduction was already in progress and we had to proceed."
The film was screened out of competition at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival.
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An ophthalmologist's mistress threatens to reveal their affair to his wife, while a married documentary filmmaker is infatuated by another woman.
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Allen weaves together the complex narrative strands with ease, punctuating the many variations on betrayal and love with three festive Thanksgiving dinners.
Allen`s ear for the strained marital conversation, the fury of a breakup and the tentativeness of starting a romance is impeccable.
Hannah and Her Sisters is also filmmaking of consummate skill and emotional range. It encompasses brilliant comedy and almost unbearable poignance -- often in the same scene.
The film was originally about a man who fell in love with his wife's sister. Then Woody Allen re-read the novel Anna Karenina "and I thought, it's interesting how this guy gets the various stories going, cutting from one story to another. I loved the idea of experimenting with that."
The movie spans two years in the lives of its large cast of characters - New Yorkers who labor in Manhattan's two sexiest industries, art and money. It begins and ends at family Thanksgiving dinners, with the dinner in the middle of the film acting as a turning point for several lives.
Hannah and Her Sisters was for a long time Allen's biggest box office hit (forgoing adjustment for inflation), with a North American gross of US$40 million. The film won Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay and for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress.
In New York in 1928, a struggling playwright is forced to cast a mobster's talentless girlfriend in his latest drama in order to get it produced.
The story is told in three main arcs, with most of it occurring during a 24-month period beginning and ending at Thanksgiving parties hosted by Hannah (Mia Farrow) and her husband, Elliot (Michael Caine). Hannah serves as the stalwart hub of the narrative; most of the events of the film connect to her.
The life of a divorced television writer dating a teenage girl is further complicated when he falls in love with his best friend's mistress.
In France, the film was nominated for a César Award for Best Foreign Film.
He was particularly intrigued by the character of Nicholas Levin "who can't seem to find any meaning to life, he's terribly afraid of dying. It struck home very deeply. I thought it would be interesting to do one story about the relationship between three sisters and one story about someone else and his obsession with mortality."
Critics Siskel and Ebert each rated the film among the top three of the 1986 film year; Roger Ebert's 1986 review of the film called it "the best movie [Woody Allen] has ever made." Vincent Canby, of the New York Times, gave the film a highly favorable review, going as far as to say that it "sets new standards for Mr. Allen as well as for all American movie makers."
The family itself centers on the three women's parents, played by Maureen O'Sullivan and Lloyd Nolan as an aging show-business couple who have spent decades in loving warfare over his cheating and her drinking and their mutual career decisions.
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Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)
Allen's way of setting himself up as a fount of moral wisdom is as insufferable as ever, but at least the preachiness is alleviated by some genuine wit.
In his attempts to reconcile a lounge singer with his mistress, a hapless talent agent is mistaken as her lover by a jealous gangster.
Lee and Hannah have a third sister, Holly (Dianne Wiest). They form parts of a whole. Hannah is the competent, nurturing one. Lee is the emotional, sensuous earth mother. Holly is a bundle of tics and insecurities.
A look at this year's competition for Best Actress.
The movie was satirized in Mad magazine as "Henna and Her Sickos."
"Documentary" about a man who can look and act like whoever he's around, and meets various famous people.
Mickey is the character played by Allen; he is a neurotic TV executive who lives in constant fear of death or disease. He was married to Hannah at one time and fathered her twin boys (after yeoman efforts). Even after Hannah's marriage to Elliot, Mickey remains a member of the family, circling its security with a winsome yearning to belong.
The American Film Institute nominated the film for a ranking on its 1997 lists of the 100 greatest American movies, the 100 funniest movies, and the 100 greatest love stories.
Allen's writing and directing style is so strong and assured in this film that the actual filmmaking itself becomes a narrative voice, just as we sense Henry James behind all of his novels, or William Faulkner or Iris Murdoch behind theirs.
By the end of the movie, the section titles and quotations have made an ironic point: We try to organize our lives according to what we have read and learned and believed in, but our plans are lost in a tumult of emotion.
A minor arc in the film tells part of the story of Norma (Maureen O'Sullivan) and Evan (Lloyd Nolan). They are the parents of Hannah and her two sisters, and still have acting careers of their own. Their own tumultuous marriage revolves around Norma's alcoholism and alleged affairs, but the long-term bond between them is evident in Evan's flirtatious anecdotes about Norma while playing piano at the Thanksgiving gatherings.
The marvel of Hannah and Her Sisters is just how many fully realized characters and relationships Allen is able to weave into the fabric of this extraordinarily well-written film. This script is one to be studied by aspiring filmmakers.
Farrow admitted "a small sick feeling... deep inside me" which "I shared with nobody was my fear that Hannah and Her Sisters had openly and clearly spelled out his feelings for my sister. But this was fiction, I told myself... So I put those thoughts out of my mind."
The film weaves a rich Chekhovian mix, full of wry insights into the fragility of human emotions.
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