Suffering from writer's block and eagerly awaiting his writing award, Harry Block remembers events from his past and scenes from his best-selling books as characters, real and fictional, come back to haunt him.
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Harry Block is a well-regarded novelist whose tendency to thinly-veil his own experiences in his work, as well as his un-apologetic attitude and his proclivity for pills and whores, has left him with three ex-wives that hate him. As he is about to be honored for his writing by the college that expelled him, he faces writer's block and the impending marriage of his latest flame to a writer friend. As scenes from his stories and novels pass and interact with him, Harry faces the people whose lives he has affected - wives, lovers, his son, his sister. Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Deconstructing Harry is Woody Allen's masterpiece. The editing is unlike anything else Allen has done, full of little cuts which give the movie a level of abstraction that raises you above the narrative thread. It was instantly my favorite Allen film and has remained so ever since. Praised when it came out for its unflinching honesty, it eschews the self-glorifying cuteness of his other quasi-autobiographical movies such as Stardust Memories and Annie Hall and even Manhattan.
The main conceit of this movie is that Allen's character, writer Harry Block (get it?), meets his alter egos and other characters from his writing as though in real life. Block's characters have been modeled with almost no attempt to disguise them on his relatives and ex-relationships, which infuriates and sometimes devastates them. You have to follow very carefully to distinguish the "real life" relatives from the alter egos who spring to life from the pages of his books.
Block has many very seamy weaknesses and peccadilloes which he readily admits and indulges without remorse. His "real life" relatives and exes submit him to scathing criticism and resentment, while their "fictional" counterparts contribute a more dispassionate and omniscient commentary on Block's misdeeds and poor judgment. The cast is among Allen's most star-studded and uniformly brilliant. It's always fun to watch actors appearing in their only Allen film, and there are many here. My favorite is Billy Crystal, who plays a friend of Block's who stole his lover--and also appears as the devil giving Block the cook's tour of the tenth circle of Hell.
To maintain this complexity of voices requires brilliant writing, and Allen does not disappoint. My favorite quote is:
Doris: Your whole life, it's nihilism, it's cynicism, it's sarcasm and orgasm.
Block: You know, in France, I could run on that slogan and win.
If I were one for condescendingly dogmatic assertions, and I'm not, but if I were, I would tell you that if you do not love this movie, you are watching Woody Allen movies for the wrong reasons.
For the record, rounding out my top five Allen movies are: Mighty Aphrodite, Bullets Over Broadway, Small Time Crooks, and Stardust Memories, with honorable mention to Shadows and Fog.
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