Director: Woody Allen

104 minutes| U.S.A.| 1989| Colour| 35mm

‘The world,’ said Horace Walpole, ‘is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.’ Allen blends both elements in this philosophically ambitious film that tells parallel stories of morality and murder. An ophthalmologist (Martin Landau) wants rid of a clinging mistress (Anjelica Huston) who threatens his marriage and future; a dedicated documentary director (Allen) resents his shallow but hugely successful brother-in-law (Alan Alda). Events conspire to cause both to wonder whether ‘the eyes of God are on us always’, or whether the universe has no meaning.

The film has the most pervasive eye symbolism since Psycho, is a scathing summation of the values of Reagan’s America, and its world-view is unremittingly pessimistic. Yet it is also marvellously entertaining, finding solace in the human capacity to love and laugh, even in adversity. A heartbroken Allen, taking back a love letter, nobly confesses it was mostly plagiarised from Joyce.

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