Thursday, August 27, 2015

Crimes and Misdemeanors

CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS             A                    
USA  (107 mi)  1989  d  Woody Allen

I think I see a cab.  If we run quickly we can kick the crutch from that old lady and get it.
―Clifford Stern (Woody Allen)

The 80’s was a particularly good decade for Allen, arguably his best, with films like Stardust Memories (1980),  A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982), ZELIG (1983), my own personal favorite Broadway Danny Rose (1984), THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO (1985), Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), RADIO DAYS (1987), SEPTEMBER (1987), and ANOTHER WOMAN (1988), a time when he discovered the incomparable Mia Farrow, making this their 9th of 13 films working together, mirror images of one other with all their pent-up anxiety and inner turmoil, ending the decade with this film, doing away with the feel good Hollywood ending, where the edgier, more pessimistic tone was a direct response to Allen’s feelings that he had been too “nice” to the characters at the end of Hannah and Her Sisters, though arguably this may be his most openly Jewish effort, much like the Coen Brothers’ film A Serious Man (2009), as each is a journey that attempts to fathom the essence of their Jewish soul.  While some of the basic ideas for the film were stolen outright by Noah Baumbach in While We're Young (2015), a film that attempts to deal with the overall ethics and moral responsibilities of artists, it was Allen who was the original trailblazer, paying homage to Chekhov, Dostoyevsky, and Bergman among others, but the film is so undeniably and uniquely Allen that it could not have been made by any other director.  According to Roger Ebert in his 1989 review, Crimes and Misdemeanors - Roger Ebert , “Who else but Woody Allen could make a movie in which virtue is punished, evildoing is rewarded, and there is a lot of laughter ― even subversive laughter at the most shocking times?”  Since Dostoyevsky’s title was already taken, this is Allen’s flipside to Crime and Punishment, a moralistic film that searches for meaning throughout, guided by God, religious teachings, and the lessons of philosophers, only to discover this can all be thrown out the window for people of wealth and privilege, where ultimately the laws of God do not apply to them.  Money apparently offers them divine privilege and protection for their crimes, as after a brief period of agonizing guilt afterwards, the feeling dissipates and the man’s conscience can be clear, no longer feeling the slightest tinge of guilt, literally getting away with murder.  At its most outlandish, it asks what would the world look like today had the Nazi’s won?  Jews that survived the Holocaust have a unique relationship with God, perhaps best expressed by Elie Wiesel in his book Night, his personal take on surviving Auschwitz as a child while watching his entire family and nearly everyone else around him die.  A devout religious student as a child, throughout the ordeal he kept asking himself, where was God at Auschwitz?  How could he allow that to happen?  Apparently these same kinds of questions haunted Allen as a child, where this film represents a seemingly futile search for faith in the moral wasteland represented by the Reagan years (1981 – 89).   
According to David Evanier from the Jewish Book Council, January 28, 2014, David Evanier on Woody Allen's references to his Jewish ...  
Woody Allen became a comedy star at a time when every preconception about American life came into question. He entered a social milieu that somehow was waiting for and anticipating him. He was the antithesis of the traditional male hero: the archetypal schlemiel with a whining, high voice. His humor was very personal and unique; it was not interchangeable with other comedians. There was a presumption, whether it was true or not, that he was telling you something more personal and autobiographical about himself and his experiences.

It almost strains credulity that a Jewish comedian and film actor who placed his Jewishness front and center and consciously proclaimed it, utilizing constant references to his Jewish identity, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust, and with ambivalent ways of defining gentiles (white bread and mayonnaise were the most popular reference) could capture the imagination of and even beguile a huge audience as Woody Allen has done. Jack Benny, George Burns, Eddie Cantor, and Groucho Marx preceded him, but these were not comics advertising their Jewishness; it was implicit and polite. Borscht-belt comics were open about their ethnicities by the 1950s, but they were entertaining largely Jewish audiences. Allen was a national comic from the start.

Allen’s boyhood was lived during the Holocaust from afar and he is obsessed with it. He wrote in Tikkun of his rage when reading Elie Wiesel’s Night: “Wiesel made the point several times that the inmates of the camps didn’t think of revenge. I find it odd that I, who was a small boy during World War Two and who lived in America, unmindful of any of the horrors Nazi victims were undergoing, and who never missed a good meal with meat and a warm bed to sleep in at night, and whose memories of those years are only blissful and full of good times and good music—that I think of nothing but revenge.”

The film wastes no time getting right into the heart of the action, as within minutes, Martin Landau as Judah Rosenthal is immediately identified as a “guilty man,” like a villain in a Hitchcock film, intercepting and reading aloud to himself a letter intended for his wife from his mistress of several years, airline stewardess Dolores Paley (Anjelica Huston), where she’s fed up with hiding and being alone and is ready to expose it all, which puts Judah in a precarious position, where much of this film is told through brief flashbacks, which act as his conscience, where he sees his life passing before his eyes.  As a successful ophthalmologist and a pillar of the community, this revelation could demoralize his wife Miriam (Claire Bloom), who enjoys the privileges of being married to a successful partner and upset the stability of a loving family, as both parents are adored by their daughter Sharon (Stephanie Roth Haberle) and her fiancé Chris (Greg Edelman).  All this could be ruined if word gets out.  And there’s charges of embezzling as well?  The central dilemma is Rosenthal goes on a panicked tailspin, still trying to smooth things over with Dolores, who won’t give up easily, as she wants what’s been promised to her.  Anjelica Huston plays totally against type here, as she’s usually a strong, dominant character, but here she’s a long-suffering woman who’s continually been taken advantage of, who is reduced to nervous exhaustion in his presence, and grows neurotically angry and insecure in his absence.  Each of the scenes they play together is a flurry of heated emotions, where Rosenthal is concerned that the dam is about to break.  Alternating with Rosenthal’s ugly dilemma is the plight of a relatively unknown documentary filmmaker Clifford Stern (Woody Allen), something of a sad sack character who is involved in a loveless marriage with his wife Wendy (Joanna Gleason), where they haven’t had sex in a year (The last time I was inside a woman was when I was in the Statue of Liberty,” he quips), where the only satisfaction he receives out of life is taking his young niece to matinee revival movie houses, where clips from old movies have a hilarious way of commenting on the present, much like Rosenthal’s flashback episodes.  Cliff has discovered an aging intellectual, Professor Louis Levy, to be the subject of a film he’s been working on for some time but has yet to complete it.  Interestingly, Levy is played by Martin Bergmann, known personally as a friend and therapist by Allen, a clinical professor of psychology in New York University’s post-doctoral program, though his character appears to have been based on Primo Levy, Italian writer, essayist and Holocaust survivor of Auschwitz.  Once again, Allen uses Levy’s eloquent speeches as if summoning up the voice of conscience.  In the opening moments, we hear Judah’s conscience speaking during a testimonial dinner speech honoring his generous philanthropy.

I remember my father telling me, “The eyes of God are on us always.”  The eyes of God.  What a phrase to a young boy. What were God’s eyes like?  Unimaginably penetrating, intense eyes, I assumed.  And I wonder if it was just a coincidence I made my specialty ophthalmology.

This is a film with plenty of one-liner zingers, like the Woody of old, where we appreciate the comic wit of this man, who is like an encyclopedia of Jewish humor going back to the vaudeville era when comedians had to suffer through the catcalls and boos of an audience that impatiently waited for the next girlie act to show up, yet by the end of the film Woody’s character is in abject despair.  An interesting counterpoint throughout is the use of vintage jazz music that sounds so upbeat and happy.  Allen’s nemesis is his wife’s highly accomplished and extremely successful brother, Lester, Alan Alda, introduced with Darryl Hannah on his arm in an uncredited cameo, a multi-millionaire TV producer who’s also something of a narcissistic egomaniac in the mold of Donald Trump, where he has to constantly be the center of attention, which irks Cliff to no end, as he can’t get anyone to pay attention to him or his films.  In reality, Allen loved Alda’s improvisational style and asked him for more, greatly expanding the role, which Allen wrote as they were filming, where his personality was supposedly based on comedy writer Larry Gelbart.  As a favor to Wendy, Lester agrees to hire Cliff, who’s forced to abandon his principles (a vow of poverty, apparently) by agreeing to film a documentary on the life of Lester for a great deal of money, where he meets one of the producers on the set, Hallie (Mia Farrow), as she fends off a series of romantic attempts by Lester.  Hoping to find a fellow comrade in arms in the war against Lester, they quickly become an alliance of two, where Hallie shows interest in his documentary, suggesting it could run in the fall television campaign, and of course they play hooky on Lester by attending old vintage matinee movies, where Cliff falls madly in love, though for Hallie it’s more of a budding friendship with a business acquaintance.  Meanwhile, Judah is eating himself alive and confesses his infidelity through the confidentially of one of his patients, Ben (Sam Waterston), a rabbi that is going blind, who urges him to come clean with his wife and hope for forgiveness, “It’s a fundamental difference in the way we view the world.  You see it as harsh and empty of values and pitiless, and I couldn’t go on living if I didn’t feel with all my heart a moral structure with real meaning, and forgiveness, and some kind of higher power.  Otherwise there’s no basis to know how to live,” while also having flashbacks of his own father Sol (David S. Howard) at temple, instructing him as a young child, “The eyes of God see all.  Listen to me Judah, there is absolutely nothing that escapes his sight.  He sees the righteous and He sees the wicked, and the righteous will be rewarded, but the wicked will be punished for eternity.”  In one of the more memorable flashbacks, at a family Passover dinner, where Sol again claims “God will punish the wicked,” his more feisty and radical sister May (Anna Berger) reminds Sol that Hitler exterminated 6 million Jews and got away with it.  With all of this gnawing away inside his soul, Judah calls on the aid of his brother Jack, the more down to earth Jerry Orbach, who has sinister underworld connections, afraid of what he’s doing but he’s desperate to stop Dolores or he’ll be ruined, so he instructs Jack to “take care of it.”  Those few words set in motion a most foul deed, to which the agonized Judah responds when it’s over, “God have mercy on us, Jack.”         

Beautifully edited in a gorgeous symmetrical design, where each sequence is quick, establishes itself, and moves on to another, creating a fluidity of character and ideas that continually spark interest, making terrific use of old movie clips, all tying the past into the present, the film is listed as #3, behind ANNIE HALL (1977) and MANHATTAN (1979) as #1 from an October 4, 2013 Guardian Poll, "The 10 best Woody Allen films".  Interesting that gas was only $1.03/gallon when this film was made, also that Allen uses Judah’s favorite composer to accentuate the fragmented thoughts and jarring darkness of his actions, setting the murder motif to a Schubert String Quartet in G major, Op. 161, D.887, 1st movement by the Julliard String Quartet, 1.Franz Schubert D. 887 Last Quartet No. 15 in G major I ... YouTube (10:00), followed by a quick edit to an amusing film clip of “Murder He Says” from HAPPY GO LUCKY (1943), Betty Hutton -- Murder, He Says - YouTube (2:51).  While Cliff is supposed to be painting a flattering portrait of such a successful, larger-than-life man, instead he focuses on how he perceives Lester, like the belligerent manner that he treats his staff, repeatedly showing his gargantuan ego and tyrannical rage, edited next to archival footage of Mussolini delivering an animated speech to the cheering throngs, but apparently he goes too far with footage of Lester privately cornering women with sexual advances, which promptly gets him fired.  “What is the guy so upset about?  You’d think nobody was ever compared to Mussolini before.”  But perhaps even more deflating, he receives news that Professor Levy committed suicide, leaving behind a note that simply said, “I’ve gone out the window.”  Cliff is beside himself in disbelief, claiming “When I grew up in Brooklyn nobody committed suicide.  Everyone was too unhappy.”  Hallie explains they could never use his film after this event, but in real life it matches what happened to Primo Levy, who committed suicide in 1987 at the age of 67, which likely had a major impact on this film, much like the use of Bruno Bettelheim’s appearance in ZELIG (1983), another Holocaust survivor that committed suicide by asphyxiation a year after this film was released.  Continuing the downward spiral, Hallie is leaving for work in London for 3 or 4 months, leaving Cliff feeling like he’s been abandoned and handed a prison sentence.  Cut to a shot of Alcatraz and clips from the film 20,000 YEARS IN SING SING (1932), as months, months, months pass by before the film jumps ahead 4 months later to a wedding reception (at the Waldorf Astoria) for the daughter of Ben, the now completely blind rabbi, where Wendy and Cliff are finally getting divorced, but Cliff is even more devastated over his worst fear realized, as Hallie and Lester arrive to the party happy and engaged.  Hallie quietly returns his one love letter, “It’s probably just as well.  I plagiarized most of it from James Joyce.  You probably wondered why all the references to Dublin,” leaving Cliff alone and in despair, sitting away from the party having a drink, where he is joined by Judah in a chance encounter, hearing that he’s a movie guy, pitching his “fictionalized” idea of a chilling murder for a movie, one where the guy actually gets away with it.   

And after the awful deed is done, he finds that he’s plagued by deep-rooted guilt. Little sparks of his religious background which he’d rejected are suddenly stirred up. He hears his father’s voice. He imagines that God is watching his every move. Suddenly, it’s not an empty universe at all, but a just and moral one, and he’s violated it. Now, he’s panic-stricken. He’s on the verge of a mental collapse-an inch away from confessing the whole thing to the police. And then one morning, he awakens. The sun is shining, his family is around him and mysteriously, the crisis has lifted. He takes his family on a vacation to Europe and as the months pass, he finds he’s not punished. In fact, he prospers. The killing gets attributed to another person―a drifter who has a number of other murders to his credit, so I mean, what the hell? One more doesn’t even matter. Now he’s scot-free. His life is completely back to normal.  Back to his protected world of wealth and privilege.

However it is Professor Levy speaking from the grave who gets the last word, spoken over the jazzy refrains of “I’ll Be Seeing You”:

We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions.  Moral choices.  Some are on a grand scale.  Most of these choices are on lesser points.  But!  We define ourselves by the choices we have made.  We are in fact the sum total of our choices.  Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does not seem to have been included, in the design of creation.  It is only we, with our capacity to love, that give meaning to the indifferent universe.  And yet, most human beings seem to have the ability to keep trying, and even to find joy from simple things like their family, their work, and from the hope that future generations might understand more.

Movie Clips used in the film

Happy Go Lucky (1943)
Francis (1950)

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Hannah and Her Sisters

HANNAH AND HER SISTERS                A        
USA  (103 mi)  1986  d:  Woody Allen

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond, by e.e. cummings, 1931, somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond | Academy ...                                              

Opening with the soaring notes of Harry James’ golden horn, You Made Me Love You - Harry James / Helen Forrest ... YouTube (3:18), this is one of the better Thanksgiving films, beginning and ending with a lavish Thanksgiving party given by the family of “three sisters,” borrowing liberally from the idea of the original Chekhov play, turning this into one of Allen’s most novelistic films.  Generous, warmhearted and funny, the complexity of the story unravels the lives and tangled relationships surrounding Hannah, who attempts to juggle a complicated life and a demanding family that includes her two sisters, her parents, her husband, ex-husband, and an assortment of friends and relatives, where this is the best ensemble piece in Allen’s career, a character driven drama, where the performances all enrich the dramatic detail of the story.  At its core this film feels very incestuous, with men lusting after and even stalking other sisters from the same family, possibly because their family throws such a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner party that it’s impossible not to want to be there.  Another way of looking at it is a Woody Allen love letter to Mia Farrow, providing a “romanticized” view of her, who as Hannah is at the center of a story that revolves around her two sisters, each of whom is lusted after by one husband or another, while she remains at center the rock of Gibraltar for the entire family, cooking and preparing the Thanksgiving dinners, while seven of her own children play themselves in the movie, including Soon-Yi Previn, Allen’s eventual wife, adding more than a touch of authenticity, while her own real-life mother, Maureen O’Sullivan, plays her mother.  Having been involved with Mia Farrow since 1980, this was their fifth of thirteen films made together, shot in Farrow’s own Central Park West apartment, with the camera moving in and out of the rooms, and is Allen’s variation of Ingmar Bergman’s autobiographical FANNY AND ALEXANDER (1982), opening with large theatrical families gathering together for three successive holiday celebrations, with Bergman’s film celebrating Christmas, displaying a restless tone of contentment in the first gathering, signs of turmoil and trouble in the second, with a resolution of the lingering troubles by the third.  Much like the short stories of Chekhov, a chapter heading opens each new sequence, with Allen, after having re-read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, experimenting with a literary style that intercuts and intertwines various stories.  It’s a film that shows a bohemian side of New York City that no longer exists, including Pageant Books and Tower Records, or Top Shop in Soho, all part of the existing landscape, with a trio of sisters that are beautifully written and brilliantly acted, saving one of the best roles for himself.  Shot by Carlo Di Palma, it all comes together with a painterly feel vividly capturing a romantic side of a contemporary 80’s New York bathed in an autumnal glow, enriched by a newfound maturity in the artist’s life.                                                     

Hannah (Mia Farrow) is the eldest of three sisters, with Holly (Dianne Wiest) as the middle child, a rebellious coke addict in the beginning of the film and something of a misfit, while Lee (Barbara Hershey) is the youngest, most sensual, a recovering alcoholic, and the target of interest from the leering eyes of Hannah’s husband Elliot (Michael Caine), who secretly longs for her.  Lee is involved in a relationship with an older father figure, Frederick (Max von Sydow), a gloomy artist and social recluse.  Hannah’s ex-husband is television producer Mickey Sachs (Woody Allen), a full-blown hypochondriac who believes he is suffering from symptoms of every known fatal disease, but more likely simply suffers from the stress and pressures of his fast-paced job.  While Holly is a struggling actress, she’s temporarily cofounder of the Stanislovski catering business that she runs with her friend April (Carrie Fisher), where they meet a dreamy architect with a love of opera, David (Sam Waterston), who takes them on an architectural tour of New York, Hannah And Her Sisters - David's architecture tour of New York YouTube (5:15), before dating them both, leaving Holly’s ego bruised as she thought he was exclusively into her.  While the sisters are very close, tension still exists between them, especially in the changeable lives of the younger sisters who look up to Hannah for stability, as she is a constant fixture in their lives, also the darling of her parent’s eyes as well, continually doting on her throughout their own tumultuous marriage, where Nora (Maureen O’Sullivan) is the ever flirtatious alcoholic who always wants to be the center of attention, both still thriving in acting careers of their own, while Evan (Lloyd Nolan) seems destined to always bring Norma back down to earth with quips like (in reference to Hannah), “I can only hope that she was mine!  With you as her mother, her father could be anybody in Actor's Equity!”, continually seen playing piano standards like “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” over the holidays, which becomes a central theme of the film.  Allen uses the voiceover to allow each character to describe their inner feelings, which also has a way of foreshadowing events that are about to happen.  What remains unclear is any backstory, as we never know what drew Hannah and Elliot together, especially since he’s immediately interested in someone else, attempting to show discretion, but he always seems to go out of his way to find her, and then very much like Frederick, he’ll suggest a book, a piece of music, or a poem, like the E.E. Cummings poem that he marks and notates as a reflection of his feelings for her.  Perhaps because she needed to get out from under the authoritarian vice grip of Frederick, she opens the door for Elliot, which is bit surprising, considering the respect the sisters have for Hannah, but that is one of the central strands of the storyline.  Allen, of course, frames Frederick’s realization that Lee is having an affair with a despairing rant about the state of the world, as he’s actually been bored by the mediocrity of television:

You missed a very dull TV show on Auschwitz.  More gruesome film clips and more puzzled intellectuals declaring their mystification over the systematic murder of millions.  The reason they can never answer the question ‘How could it possibly happen?’ is that it’s the wrong question.  Given what people are, the question is ‘Why doesn’t it happen more often?’

You see the whole culture.  Nazis, deodorant salesmen, wrestlers, beauty contests, a talk show.  Can you imagine the level of a mind that watches wrestling?  But the worst are the fundamentalist preachers.  Third grade con men telling the poor suckers that watch them that they speak with Jesus, and to please send in money.  Money, money, money!  If Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up.           

Allen as himself is easily the funniest thing in the film, identifying himself in a chapter entitled “the hypochondriac,” perhaps initiated by a flashback sequence revealing his marriage with Hannah came apart when a medical report indicated that his sperm was infertile and he was unable to have children.  Causing him complete embarrassment and utter humiliation, she asks if he might have ruined himself somehow, perhaps from “excessive masturbation?”  In an amusing scene, he then awkwardly asks his best friend if he’d like to father Hannah’s child by artificial insemination?  After the divorce, for whatever reason he goes on a disastrous date with Holly, which is like a date from Hell, where she’s literally scooping spoonfuls of cocaine into her nostrils at an ear-splitting punk performance in the filth of CBGB’s that simply alienates Mickey, telling her “I’m afraid once they’re done singing they’re gonna take hostages!”  When she slams the door in his face afterwards getting into a taxi, he tells her “I had a great evening.  It was like the Nuremberg Trials.”  Later, unexpected hearing loss leads to thoughts of cancer and a brain tumor, where he’s already plotting out methods of suicide, where he may have to take his entire family with him.  The build-up of mental exhaustion sends him into an existential tailspin of endless despair, believing life is meaningless.  Finding no rational explanation for God, he even hilariously experiments with converting to Catholicism, an experience that apparently includes a crucifix, white bread and mayonnaise, which freaks out his own Jewish parents who weren’t even aware you could do things like that.  Thoroughly desperate, Mickey would try anything to find meaning in life, even talking to the Hare Krishna’s singing and dancing in the park, reading their literature, but everywhere he looked he could find no answers, seen eventually perplexed and confused by a holographic Jesus in a religious bookstore.  His moment of revelation comes at the most dire moment, following an unsuccessful suicide attempt where he simply wanders the upper west side streets of New York endlessly.  Tired and exhausted he winds up at a revival movie house watching a movie, which quickly becomes reminiscent of the “Let My People Go” Go Down Moses - Sullivan's Travels (1941) - YouTube (3:31) sequence from Sullivan's Travels (1941) where a chain gang sits down in an all-black church to watch a movie together with the parishioners.  The director Preston Sturges intended to play a Chaplin film, but rights were denied, instead playing a Disney Mickey Mouse cartoon featuring Mickey Mouse 1934 Playful Pluto - Video Dailymotion (7:22), where Pluto’s paws continually get caught on fly paper, where the animated pranks and pratfalls leave the congregation in stitches, a welcome relief from the otherwise harsh human conditions of the Great Depression.  In Mickey’s case, of course, the holy grail of movies turns out to be the crazy antics of the Marx Brothers in DUCK SOUP (1933), Duck Soup (10/10) Movie CLIP - To War (1933) HD YouTube (3:28), which resuscitates his declining spirits, deciding life should be enjoyed, rather than always having to be understood.   

I went upstairs to the balcony, and I sat down, and the movie was a film that I’d seen many times in my life since I was a kid, and I always loved it.  I’m watching these people up on the screen and I started getting hooked on the film.  I started to feel, how can you even think of killing yourself, I mean isn’t it so stupid.  Look at all the people up there on the screen, they’re real funny, and what if the worst is true.  What if there is no God and you only go around once and that’s it.  Well, ya know, don’t you wanna be part of the experience?  You know, what the hell it’s not all a drag.  And I’m thinking to myself, Jeez, I should stop ruining my life searching for answers I’m never gonna get, and just enjoy it while it lasts.  And after who knows, I mean maybe there is something, nobody really knows.  I know maybe is a very slim reed to hang your whole life on, but that’s the best we have.  And then I started to sit back, and I actually began to enjoy myself.

Continually borrowing money from Hannah for her next project, Holly abandons her acting and catering careers to try her hand at writing with a script that seems to reveal personal details of Hannah and Elliot’s relationship, including secrets never revealed by Hannah to either of her sisters, so she’s shocked to see her life exposed under such scrutiny, threatening to expose Elliot’s relationship with Lee, who was mysteriously able to provide insight that even Hannah was not aware of.  When questioned, Elliot disavows having anything to do with it, but this revelation makes Lee step back, as her affair is obviously threatening her sister, so by the second Thanksgiving she ends the relationship and decides to go back to school.  Hannah, however, is stung by the revelations that she’s viewed as so saintly that she doesn’t need anybody, that she’s self-sufficient and overly focused to the point that she displays no weaknesses or vulnerabilities, always being so reliant and taking care of others that she becomes impenetrable, which is another way of indicating she doesn’t let anyone else get truly close to her.  Everyone in the film is exposed, while at the same time showing signs of envy and even harboring thoughts of secret bitterness at the success of others, making this one of the most complicated films that he’s ever written, where errors and imperfections are sympathized with along with personal strengths.  Emerging from this myriad of relationships drifting apart and coming together, the film brings out the most important ingredients of life and love, while still exploring feelings of jealousy, confusion, sibling rivalry, sadness, loneliness, and most especially hope.  Rather than an out-of-place side character lost in the struggles of depression and self-loathing, Allen’s own personality infuses this film with the same sense of humanity found in the other characters,  In fact, his search for meaning in a meaningless world and what passes for organized religion becomes quite touching, where his affirmation of life rises above the typical cynicism found in his other works.  Only by learning from their previous mistakes do they eventually discover their humanity.  The knock on the film is that it is too warm and optimistic, where the ending is at odds with the bleak realism of all but the last fifteen minutes, as the original ending had Elliot still with Hannah, but in love with Lee, who had married someone else, where he was forced to relive the same nightmarish feelings of personal torment, doomed to forever see her at family parties, a constant reminder of what he had lost, leaving him emotionally adrift, drowning in his sorrows, which Allen recalled “was so down for everyone that there was a huge feeling of disappointment and dissatisfaction every time I screened it.”  He also filmed more explicit sex scenes between Hershey and Caine that were also cut, but it all comes together in the end with Mickey accidentally running into Holly in a record store, rekindling forgotten feelings, allowing him to read something she wrote that he genuinely admires, finally affirming Holly’s long felt ambition, bringing a note of tenderness and optimism to an emerging expression of love.  Both Michael Caine and Dianne Wiest won Academy Awards in the supporting actor categories, while Allen won for best original screenplay.  The film is listed at #4 from The Guardian Poll, published October 4, 2013, "The 10 best Woody Allen films".