A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

"Dazzled by so many and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo ... became indignant over the living images that the prosperous merchant Bruno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head ticket windows, for a character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose misfortune tears had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in the next one. The audience, who had paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many ... decided not to return to the movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out misfortunes of imaginary beings."
--Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)

Woody Allen's warmest and maybe most irresistible film has none of the neurotic obsession gags or existentialist angst shtick that are so often associated with his work. It's a simple piece about the nostalgia that old songs evoke in us -- in Allen's case, reminiscences of the days when radio was the dominant, almost ubiquitous medium in people's lives, before television held people captive in their living rooms or the internet addicted them to the little screens of their cell phones or tablets. Specifically, it's Allen's childhood as seen through the eyes of young Joe (Seth Green) and his parents (Julie Kavner and Michael Tucker) and extended family. It's also, secondarily, a tribute to many of the actors who have enlivened Allen's films, with smaller roles and cameos filled by Dianne Wiest, Mia Farrow, Danny Aiello, Jeff Daniels, Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton, and many others. Production designer Santo Loquasto deservedly received an Oscar nomination for his re-creation of Queens and Manhattan in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but honors should go to the luminous cinematography of Carlo Di Palma, too. The soundtrack, supervised by Dick Hyman, ranges from such true classics as Kurt Weill's "September Song" and Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train" to novelty pop of the period like "Mairzy Doats" and "Pistol Packin' Mama." As one born B.T. (Before Television), I can really dig it.