Woody Allen's approximately autobiographical movie tells of the short-lived romance between a New York Jewish intellectual (Allen himself, accoutered in a thrift-shop wardrobe) and a kooky Midwestern WASP (Diane Keaton). It can usefully be thought of as a movie tailored to the critics. It is Allen's most "personal" movie (no higher praise in movie critics' lingo), or at any rate his most confessional movie; it is rife with cinema in-jokes; and in Allen's character it delineates a critic's personality: he is kibitzer, pontificator, putdowner, sneerer, whiner, snob, and bigot. The believability of his self-characterization is in his inconsistency. On the defensive in every situation, he is an alert counterpuncher in a world of incessant affronts, a devout practitioner of upmanship and lastwordism, and a slave to the convenient wisecrack. His visual style is rather sedentary and strangely indebted to the type of theatrical conceit that Elia Kazan in The Arrangement revived from the bygone days of Group Theatre (one character occupying the same scene as both an adult and a child -- that type of thing); but his verbal wit, on such regular talk-show topics as New York City, Hollywood, anti-Semitism, sex, and death, is livelier -- or rather deadlier -- than ever before. With Carol Kane, Tony Roberts, Janet Margolin, and Shelley Duvall. (1977) — Duncan Shepherd
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