Woody Allen's sentimental reminiscence about the golden age of radio. A series of vignettes involving radio personalities is intertwined with the life of a working class family in Rockaway Beach, NY circa 1942. Written by
Scott Renshaw <email@example.com>
In one scene, a pack of Camel cigarettes lies on a table, with a clearly visible bar code on the side of the package. The Universal Product Code would not be introduced until the 1970s. See more »
[as she watches anti-aircraft searchlights with husband during a World War II black-out]
It's so beautiful. Boy, what a world... it could be so wonderful, if it wasn't for certain people.
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I thought I was being original when I made the connection between Woody Allen's "Radio Days" and Federico Fellini's "Amarcord," but I was being naive. The parallels are so transparent it is of no surprise that most of the IMDB reviewers (and I imagine those others as well) caught the similarity.
And it's a good similarity - "Radio Days" is as successful in transporting the viewer to a different place and time as "Amarcord" was. It also cements my conclusion that Woody Allen is the only director who "spoofs" great art films and artistic styles, confirmed by his tributes to Ingmar Bergman and German Expressionists.
All that aside, "Radio Days" is, second of all, a look at Allen's childhood memories weaved together by radio. It's the story of his family (his large and extended family and neighborhood personages), their likes, dislikes, relationships and favorite radio shows. They are inextricably connected as genetic members of a family, but also more intangibly linked by radio broadcasts, to which they listen to individually as well as collectively. They have favorite songs and shows - each favorite reflecting the personality of a given character. They also share great love for one another, though they quibble like all human beings do. In fact, that tender quibbling, love and loss and understanding is what makes Allen's characters come to life so successfully - no wonder he speaks of them with warmth.
What "Radio Days" is about first of all and foremost, is nostalgia. The film would only be a heartwarming family tale and nothing more if it were not "recollected" by Woody Allen, the narrator. His role in the film (in which he never physically appears) is that of a story-teller. He transports the audience to his memories consciously, mixing present reflections with the unadulterated spirit of his memories. And it is he, not the characters in the film as much, who experiences the nostalgia, the central theme of "Radio Days."
In narrating his memories, Allen is able to distance himself from them temporally. He is telling a tale that borders on fantasy, such as that on whose form nostalgic memories take place. There is a bittersweet yearning for the past and a realization that memories must inevitably fade, change, yield to time's destructiveness. Re-telling them not only reveals how one thinks life once was (usually painted over with warmth and pleasantness), but also oneself and the knowledge that these times are no longer physically accessible. How we recollect our past tells us of us as much as it does of the past. In "Radio Days" that past is warm and Allen's yearning for that warmth and childish innocence is what pervades the film so well giving it its nostalgic quality.
And nostalgia, the film seems to suggest, is a feeling worth experiencing. If one can glance back at his life and feel a longing towards the past, a warmth emanating from his memories, then he remembers life as having been kind to him. Even if the details flee from the mind (as they inevitably do) and only the feelings inspired by hazy memories remain. And that, if nothing else, is not only comforting, but also meaningful.
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