starring Woody Allen, Julia Louise Dreyfuss, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Ally Kristie and
written and directed by Woody Allen
Like all Woody Allen films, Deconstructing Harry is set and filmed in Allen’s beloved New York city This time Allen playas Harry, an author who shamelessly uses all the people and events of his life as source material for his books without disguising their identities. Needless to say, this causes untold embarrassment and grief to Harry’s victims.
Woody Allen’s characters are always the epitome of dysfunction in modern society - people crippled by phobias and fetishes and wrapped up in sophisticated intellectual double-talk as they struggle through their messed-up lives and disabled relationships.
Your guess is as good as mine on the question whether Allen is a sick savant, or a genius honestly showing us our true human natures in the crazy world. Allen shows us our own complexities and pathologies, and although anti-Allen critics can question his motives, I do not think they can take a reductionist view of human life as a basis for criticizing him. All human societies, even so-called ‘primitive’ ones, are complex beyond what we imagine. In fact, they are so complex that they often demonstrate the adage that life is stranger than fiction.
So, Allen does not have to invent psychiatric pathologies in order to make his character go round. Human beings are already a walking mass of contradictions, oddities, and secrets. What Woody does so well is to show them to us.
Typically, Allen uses a wide collection of actors and actresses woven together in a series of vignettes. My favorite character is played by comedian Robin Williams. He is a nameless actor who is out of focus. The problem is not with the camera lens. The problem is with the actor himself. His body is literally out of focus, appearing all fuzzy. If people look directly at him for too long they get dizzy and sick. It is a metaphor for our psychologically unsettled condition, and solving our focus problem will also solve our personal and social troubles, I guess.
I find watching any Woody Allen movie to be a bit of a challenge these days, no matter how skillful he is at his craft. He is just so monotonous. More than 30-years of film making and he is still mired in his adolescent pathologies, or his mid-life angst. Coming from a man who is already in his 60s, this kind of story is less and less comical and more predictable. That does not mean that his films are not good movies. They are that.