Male directors have a long history of fetishizing actresses and trying to squeeze their female secrets out of them, and Allen is no exception. But Allen goes one further, and makes his actresses like ventriloquist dummies who adopt his own neurotic self-deprecating style. So rather than trying to get into an actress's soul, as Rosselini or Bergman did, he inserts his own soul into them and has them be him. It's a sort of vampirism. Psychologists have noted that compassion lies in the ability not to understand how YOU would feel in another person's situation, but to understand how THEY feel, as THEMSLVES, as a person who is NOT you. Allen lacks compassion in that sense, and that is a strange handicap for a writer who is attempting scripts that deal with issues of identity.
His vampirism causes him to create a world where his own values predominate: that is, where everyone has the hots for everyone else, and where the activity du jour is for people to jump in bed with one another. Mia Farrow's character Alice is originally drawn into this world, but in the end rejects it for higher spiritual needs (going to Calcutta, working with Mother Theresa, giving up her wealth and selfish lifestyle and servants, and doing her own cooking and cleaning). Female socialites gossip at the end of the film about her remarkable transformation, and include in the same breath the transformation of another friend who has had plastic surgery. While Allen seems to be making fun of these gossipy women, he is also shares their view of Alice: that her transformation is as shallow as having a facelift.
He always takes a tone of petulant jealousy in his films when women reject him in favor of something else. He seems to feel most abandoned not when they are leaving him not another man, but when they are leaving him for a place where they can hide away from him in their own soul - to "find themselves." His most famous films - Annie Hall, Manhattan, and others - all deal with this theme of being rejected by a woman when she goes into herself. He makes fun of women when they do this. They are seen as flaky, self-involved, being attracted to new-agey forms of self-discovery that are beneath him. For me what is really deflating about his movies is his jealousy of the spiritual center of women, and his attempt to trivialize and belittle them for having deeper souls than him. It's as if he doesn't want anyone to feel anything beautiful if he can't. For Allen, women are disappointing because they have to go on these spiritual journeys and won't just go with romance (which for him means that everyone gets to bed everyone all the time). Even where there are opportunities for something really interesting to happen - such as when characters are given a magic potion that allows them to be invisible for a time - the only way they take advantage of this is to watch other people having sex, voyeuristically gaze at models undressing, or listen to people engaging in gossip about love affairs. So nothing ever rises above the level of a sex comedy.
Most viewers will miss the references in the mostly 1930s soundtrack. Over the opening credits "Limehouse Blues" plays, a song from the '20s about the ghetto in Chinatown: "In Limehouse, where Orientals love to play, In Limehouse, where you can hear those blues all day " This song is the setup for Alice's visit to the weird Chinese herbalist/ hypnotist doctor, and plays whenever Alice visits his exotic den in Chinatown. It's a type of racist humor that may have played well in the '50s, but not so well today. "I Remember You" plays when her dead husband pays her a visit, another gag. And "Alice Blue Gown" plays during Alice's moments of self-discovery and over the ending credits, and may even be the inspiration for the title and character name. This song is from around 1919, and is about a girl singing wistfully about a "beautiful Alice blue gown" that she used to have. Here are some of the lyrics: "In my sweet little Alice blue gown, When I first wandered down into town, I was so proud inside, As I felt every eye, And in every shop window I primped, passing by." This indeed is the way Allen looks at his Alice character: as a sweet girl proud to wear a lovely gown, primping and trying to catch men's eyes. He plays this song when Alice is going on her spiritual journey, which would seem inappropriate. It's as if he is saying that she is not a grown woman with children and her own inner life, but only a lovely young girl in a gown, a girl who exists only to be loved and admired but who is stupid enough to reject love for her own silly pursuits.
In the end Allen makes fun of Alice's purity and refusal to wallow in bereft values like the others with the song, and by framing her selfless actions as a form of fanaticism. This is actually how sociopaths feel: jealous of people with real feelings and real love. Allen appears to have a voracious appetite for youth and innocence, which he merely tries to corrupt.