You love movies because you're one of life's great watchers ElMaruecan82 31 May This is Nancy, Allan's ex-wife speaking, and such a fascinatingly intriguing line that it totally distracted me from the break-up, the belittling comments on Allan's sexual merits, and all the pathos plunging Allan in the seminal state that forged the legend of Allen's characters, hence the merely disguised similitude between the two names.
Anyway, I kept repeating in my mind "one of life's great watchers". These words powerfully echo the opening scene when Allan is watching the legendary ending of "Casablanca".
His mouth agape makes you wonder whether he's mesmerized by the film or envious of the manly confidence Bogie exudes, towering a weepy Bergman. When the lights of the theater are turned on and Allan gets back to the bitter reality, his apartment gives the answer. And this is the core of Allan's existential torments, he loves movies because they vehicle the very emotions, and feelings he wants to awaken in women.
The constant hallucination of a Bogie with his legendary trench coat walking along Allan great impression by Jerry Lacy shows how predominant the Bogart-figure is in his life. The expression in Allan's face in the theater is of a young frail little boy who fantasizes about being the blonde stud getting the girl. The process works in reverse when he imagines Nancy Susan Anspach going in a motorcycle with a blonde and muscular biker, the 'Nazi-type' as he says.
The core of Allan's insecurity is his total disillusion, he knows, a Bogie, he's not Naturally, the film is mostly funny when it doesn't. If not women, Allan has two friends, Dick Tony Roberts , a fitting name for the workaholic real estate agent whose only running sometimes irritating gag consists on giving the phone number on each place he's in, and Linda Diane Keaton , a gentle and sensitive soul, driven by a sort of maternal care toward Allan.
Both try to connect Allan with their female acquaintances but the dates turn out to be totally disastrous. Indeed, Allen is never as hilarious as when he tries to impersonate what he's not, and the more he tries to 'play it like Bogie', the funnier it gets.
The film is pure Woody Allen in his most delightful self-loathing humor. And there's more than that, if "Play it Again, Sam" provides some good moments to laugh at Woody Allen, it also vehicles the idea that he's never as 'attractive' as when he's natural, granted he tries to find the right girl. And the story leaves some sweet hints of a genuine chemistry between Allan and Linda, believable for the simple reason that with Linda, he's being himself, never tries to seduce her, and therefore reaches the level of quiet and tacit appeal to make jealous any wannabe Bogie.
As a romance and a comedy, "Play it Again, Sam" is a real gem. All the bits are unequally hilarious and we kind of see the ending and some other plot devices coming but they're continuously punctuated with hilarious one-liners. It's a way to save time and money" is one of these quotes that would make you laugh harder if they didn't touch a real sensitive chord. It's all about the quest of our own equilibrium, on seduction without compromising ourselves, on hiding our weaknesses while remaining true to our souls.
When Allan finally gets to play the role of his all-time idol Bogie, replaying the climax of "Casablanca", he precisely achieved his dream because he wasn't trying to be Bogie, the arc was closed.
And the more I watch Allen and Keaton's pairing, the more I realize that the couple has nothing to envy from Bogart and Bergman, Keaton has this incredible intellectual appeal that makes believable such a beautiful woman would be insecure. She doesn't overexpose her beauty, and instead exudes the feeling of a fragile flower waiting to bloom on a man's heart, the stuff that inspires Allan's own sensitivity.
Herbert Ross, who directed the film, diluted his style into Allen's spirit, using the town of San Francisco as the only un-Allenian element of the film, providing its rich and unique atmosphere.
And as usual, beyond the gags, there's the eternal dedication of Allen to Cinema. I mentioned in "Take the Money and Run" that Cinema was the ultimate geek escapism. By playing it like Bogie, Allan finally reconciles with his own self-esteem, the point is that he learned that Bogart isn't a character, it's a state of mind, a readiness for having the guts to follow heart and instinct and sometimes even appease them for the right reasons.
When he impersonated Bogie, Allan was pathetic, when he embraced his state of mind, he was no more a loser. Maybe that's the greatest gift of Cinema, providing some models, not to impersonate, but to inspire ourselves.
I also believe that Cinema is the stuff dreams are made off and as one of 'life's great watchers' I sometimes wish I could have the same hallucinatory relationship with Michael Corleone.
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