Though Hannah and Her Sisters is undeniably one of Woody Allen’s best pictures, I’ve never quite warmed to it as much as several others—most especially, Manhattan (1979) and Stardust Memories (1980). And it might not be quite fair, but any movie that subjects me to Cole Porter’s music being subjected to Bobby Short’s interpretation is getting docked a point or two. That’s just how it is. But that doesn’t keep me from loving 99 percent of the film. It is simply not in me to not love a movie where Woody—in his typical Woody character—flirts with finding meaning in Christianity and Krishna, but ends up settling on the Marx Brothers. This is easily the best structured of his later 1980s films (though it perhaps lacks the depth of 1989’s Crimes and Misdemeanors), and it easily gets my vote as one of his best-looking color films in its depiction of Manhattan. (The brief sequence looking at architecture set to the opening of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly isn’t up there with the opening of Manhattan, but it’s nonetheless pretty fine.) The interweaving of stories in this one is very nicely accomplished. Even though it mostly seems to be remembered for the central affair between Michael Caine and Barbara Hershey, it’s a film that manages to do right by its entire cast—and as usual (Bobby Short aside), it’s beautifully fitted out with a fine soundtrack. (This is one of those films that means even more if you have a working knowledge of 1920s-1940s American popular music.)
The Asheville Film Society will screen Hannah and Her Sisters on Tuesday, May 1, at 8 p.m. in the Cinema Lounge of The Carolina Asheville and will be hosted by Xpress movie critics Ken Hanke and Justin Souther. Hanke is the artistic director of the A.F.S.