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Hannah and Her Sisters, Woody Allen (1986)

Such nostalgia. This came out the year I graduated from high school in Hudsonville, Michigan, and moved to Westchester County to attend college. Everything I dreamed of — taxicabs, psychoanalysis, seducing women with poetry, cappuccino, uncompromising dour artists, infinite bookstores, staggering insecurity, silent movies, anxiety, jokes with punchlines involving Dreiser — it was all in here, like a promise, or an omen. It’s almost as embarrassing to admit how much I wanted to live the lives of the characters in this film as it is to admit that I have.

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  1. Very interesting. I saw this movie in 86 too, but for me it was entirely about the rules of attraction. All the talk of Barbara Hershey’s beauty–and I saw a woman with no makeup and frizzy hair. All the women seemed alien, and the frenzies to which they drove the men strange. I think now it’s beacuse I simply hadn’t seen many movies in which actual adults negotiated these things. I remember quite clearly my dismayed bewilderment as Michael Caine, back in bed with Mia Farrow after having seduced her sister, reflects contentedly that he really does love Mia after all. At that moment I identified wholly with Hershey; not a great sign for the dawn of my dating years.

  2. I think for me the physical unattractiveness of all the characters in the movie provides a kind of Brechtian alienation-effect; I don’t really want to imagine any of them having sex with any of the others, and I certainly wouldn’t want to have sex with any of them. With all those possible lines of identification closed off, I’m free to consider the actions of the characters as emblematic rather than personal, abstract rather than specific. What you say about seeing adults negotiate these issues is true. I think that was a revelation for me, also. But really, I found and find everyone in the movie fairly annoying; for me the excitement and interest was all about their milieu. Not what they were saying but the fact that they were saying it in Soho.Speaking of which, it’s shocking to see the scenes shot in Soho — near where Barbara Hershey and Max Von Sydow have a loft — in this movie. It looks like HELL — a far cry from the Prada playground it has become.

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