After watching Rome, I decided to revisit some classic Allen films, including Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) and Husbands and Wives (1992). I guess I was second-guessing how highly esteemed Allen is. I mean, how is it possible that the same person who wrote and directed Celebrity (1998) also did Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)? But after re-watching those classics, my doubt was alleviated and I was fawning over Allen once again. While I still absolutely love Annie Hall and Manhattan, I was especially taken by Hannah and Her Sisters. It's a moving and dramatic film about love, adultery, loss, and death. But its power lies in its balance between drama, philosophical profundity, and humor. It's true that the main story follows Hannah, her husband, and the affair her husband has with one of Hannah's sisters.
But the subplot with Allen's character makes the film beautifully poetic. Allen plays Hannah's ex-husband, a television producer and severe hypochondriac. While he is with the doctor for a routine phisical, the doctor finds something he wants to check out. It might be cancer. The possibility of this throws Allen into a tailspin of paranoia and existential dread while he waits for the test results. He visits the doctor again, finds out that he does not have cancer, and leaves the doctor's office literally jumping and skipping for joy. But suddenly he stops. And in that moment, that perfectly paced and edited moment, he realizes that while he is not going to die of cancer, he will die eventually, and this fact fills him with more dread. He then spends time turning to religion, testing out different denominations other than the Judaism he was brought up with: Catholicism and Hari Krishna. Not surprisingly, these options don't work out for him but add lots of classic Allen moments. Ultimately, he learns the great lesson about life--that life is a struggle, that death is inevitable, but that we can all find some measure of happiness despite these ineluctabilities.