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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

RADIO DAYS (1987)

Warmhearted and buoyantly funny (gutbustingly so in the early parts), Woody Allen’s memoir pic is comically precise & believably messy, affectionately charting his extended family over the war years, celebrating their peculiarities as they bump into each other (physically & psychologically) in a modest 2-storey house, emotionally steadied by the Golden Age of Radio playing in the background. Underrated (and under-seen) at the time, it’s something of a ‘lost’ Allen film, but a beauty, a great entertainment that’s deepens as it goes along. And what a cast! From a well-preserved Kitty Carlisle Hart at the radio ‘mic’ to the young Seth Green as Woody the kid, there are scores of perfectly spotted performances at home and in some wonderful quick-sketch radio vignettes. (Though a glam cameo from Diane Keaton offers a rhythmically self-indulgently song arrangement that breaks period protocol.) With spiffy recreations that aren’t wallowed in, but handsomely caught on the fly by Carlo Di Palma, shooting the second of twelve Allen films. All wrapped up in a tight 80 minutes.

DOUBLE-BILL: This one resonates not only with auto-bio pics like Fellini’s AMARCORD/’73 and Bergman’s FANNY AND ALEXANDER/’82, but also with touchstone stories invested with personal significance by directors like Minnelli in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS/’44, Welles on MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS’42 and Renoir for FRENCH CANCAN/’55.

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