Saturday, 20 March 2010

Architecture in NYC

One of my favourite moments in Woody Allen's Academy Award Winning Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), is the scene in which Sam Waterston's character takes Dianne Wiest and Carrie Fisher on a whirlwind tour of New York City to visit some of his favourite architectural sights. The scene is notable because it illustrates, on a very basic level, what I love most about Allen's work. The seeming simplicity of it, the wit, the imagination, the sleight of hand, the effortless inventiveness and the ability to take moments and images that are present at any point in our daily lives - on any street, place or person - and transform them into moments of great cinema.

The scene in question is a delightful little moment that could have easily been included in the film for no other reason than to provide a brief interval or interlude between the more complicated or exhausting relationship dramas that occur throughout. Instead, it is a scene that communicates a great deal about the relationship between these two friends (the characters played by Wiest and Fisher) as they attempt to feign interest in this travelogue of buildings and places simply as a way of getting to know this dashing and successful young architect. Their reactions to these great buildings demonstrate a desperate attempt to agree or disagree with whatever Waterston's character is speaking of, while also offering a much more amusing insight into the dynamics of this relationship, as both women attempt to outdo one another for the offer of a ride home.

As with any great moment from the films of Woody Allen, this particular scene seems to me to offer a remarkable example of what cinema can achieve, precisely because it is something that could only be communicated through the cinematic form. This scene is further proof of Allen's obvious talent for expressing moments of immense depth and human emotion through incredibly simple though no less ingenious methods, and stands out, in my mind at least, as one single moment of invention from a film seemingly full of them.


Hannah and Her Sisters directed by Woody Allen, 1986: