Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Husbands and Wives


Two couples (Sidney Pollack and Judy Davis, Woody Allen and Mia Farrow). Close friends. They are going to dinner, but first Sid and Judy announce that they are leaving each other. Mia is freaked out. Sid starts up with a ditsy aerobics teacher (Lysette Anthony) half his age. Mia yentas Judy into a relationship with Liam Neeson. Mia then realizes she has a crush on him, too. Woody flirts with a relationship with one of his writing students, Rain (Juliette Lewis), also very young. It’s a great story, well-written and well-acted all around (Woody was nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar, and Davis for Supporting Actress), but it has one major problem that made it difficult to enjoy it …

Though Woody keeps returning to his home territory of relationships of the comfortably wealthy people of New York, at least half of his films are experimental in some way. But one thing he almost never fucks with is the form of the film itself. Almost never. Such as … in almost all his films, the opening credits are plain white letters—always the same type-face!—against black, with music playing behind them. No opening the story while the credits roll. He disdains that, and good for him. He doesn’t want credits overpowering the action on the screen. Another thing he almost always avoids is intrusive camera work. This is the exception. Here the camera is hand-held, and he even uses that technique I despise almost over all others: the deliberate camera shake. This is supposed to make a film “edgy.” What it really does, almost all the time, is show the incompetence of the director.

I sure used the word “almost” a lot up there, didn’t I? That’s because, every once in a while, the shakycam works. It can give a documentary feel, and it can enhance action. But it almost never does. What it does is draw attention to itself (Look at me! I’m an edgy sort of director!) and give half the audience a headache. For reasons known only to himself, Woody chose to pretend this film was a documentary … sort of. Almost all the characters are interviewed at one time or another. Then we cut back to the story, filmed like the Loud Family in that old PBS documentary that really got the “reality TV” fad going.

Despite all those distractions, the story is good enough that I was able to enjoy it quite a bit. And as far as I can tell, Woody got that crap out of his system and never fooled with it again.