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IN SHORT: oy. As in "joy". And as in "oy vey".
Cranky hates it when Woody Allen starts experimenting. It isn't enough that the man writes incredibly funny lines, scenes and even movies now and again on a more than regular basis. Even when he isn't firing on all cylinders, there's more than enough of a story to get you over the bad jokes to the good ones. Which brings us to Deconstructing Harry, in which some very funny jokes come at you one after another until you move delightfully with the flow...
...and then Allen cuts his visuals like a film student who never paid attention to visual continuity. A word is cut in two. A hand or a head moves from the left side to the right. The effect is like getting sucker punched in the face and it's at least a joke or two a scene or two later until you're back in that delightful flow again. At which point Allen yanks the visuals out from under you again. And again. And again. And again.
Film students will argue that Allen is visually deconstructing the film medium; that the title is the clue to the mental processes of the auteur. Hogwash. Allen didn't rehearse his actors. He let them work it out in front of the cameras (all this is documented in the press notes you can find online) and then pieced it all together much like a child hammering a round peg into a square hole.
The story is of a pill popping and potentially alcoholic writer named Harry Block (Allen) who has wed, cheated on and divorced three wives and shooed away a possible fourth. His marriages and affairs are thinly veiled in the stories and books he writes. In between he sleeps with whores and works his way through half a dozen shrinks. It's all set up for some brilliant scenes intercutting the "real" Harry with his fictional doppelganger "Ken" (Richard Benjamin). Harry works himself into such dementia and depression upon learning that Faye, his last girlfriend (Elisabeth Shue) is going to marry his friend Larry (Billy Crystal) that his fictional creations appear in his real world to deconstruct what he has artfully hidden from himself via his stories.
The jump cuts are so annoying (and even more so when you realize that most of them are there just to make sure you know that Allen knows that he is messing with your head) that I am tempted to sit through it again with a blindfold on. The better parts of Deconstructing Harry are so funny you don't have to see them. Of course, then I'd miss the joy of cackling at Robin Williams in a purely visual gag, and the appearance of Demi Moore as the written characterization of Block's second wife, a good Jewish woman who says prayers over her husband's unmentionables before performing sex acts that would sentence her to a Christian hell.
Damn, I've given a joke away. Good thing there are dozens more, just as, if not, funnier. That last one is particularly Jewish, and it's at times like these I wish I was still dating some of the Christian girls I knew way back when -- to get the non- Jewish perspective on this flick. Deconstructing Harry is, perhaps, the most Jewish of all the Allen flicks. The main character is maintains his atheism while everyone around him points out that he can't get away from his birthright. It is filled with enough sex and medical jokes to balance, but the more you know of us MOT's, the funnier it is.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Deconstructing Harry, he would have paid . . .
Deconstructing Harry is funny enough for a $6. It is Woody Allen's right as an auteur to mess with visual continuity. It is my right as consumer to respond, "please don't".
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