Beginning with 1989’s outstanding film Crimes and Misdemeanors, Woody Allen has entered what we might call the third phase (or third act) of his incredibly prolific career. In the last 8 to 10 years, Allen’s films have been striving for the Big Questions more directly than how such similar philosophical concerns are peppered in his earlier films.
I find this third phase of Allen absolutely riveting, an example of a master craftsman doing some of his best work late in life.
From Richard Brody’s recent essay “The Existential Genius of Late Woody Allen“:
Allen’s underlying humanism isn’t gone—he takes directorial pleasure in the characters who people his cinematic universe—but now it’s sublimated. In his earlier films, he wrote his characters densely, filmed them closely, and derived a wider worldview from the vectors that they bore within. Now, he sees existence as a whole, as if from the somewhat fearsome contemplative distance of someone with one foot already outside it and in the next world. His characters float through that worldscape like apparitions, as diaphanous and transitory as the directorial eye.
Nonetheless, Allen’s work is comic and breezy—not from a lack of seriousness or of commitment but from an abiding sense of fullness and progress, an optimism in the sense that the dice are infinitesimally loaded, that, in the long run, over the billions of throws, the house gets beaten just enough to keep mankind in the black.