Six Films For Six Scenes: Possible Precedents for Woody Allen’s TV Series

The neurotic New Yorker is back, and this time he’s on TV. This weekend we have been gifted a name and now a clip from the ’60s set show, humorously titled Crisis In Six Scenes. After some brief documentary footage the main clip is filmed all in one take, and shows the Woodman himself getting a haircut from a less-than-kind barber.

Whilst exact plot details are still scarce, predicting what Woody Allen does next comes sort of easy for me, having been sad enough to watch every single one of his films (yes, including What’s Up Tiger Lily and The Harvey Wallinger Story). The trick to figuring out what he will do next is seeing what he’s done before, as more than any other director I know, Woody Allen loves to repeat himself. Because there are six scenes in the TV series, here are six films that could point the way for this ensemble-based drama.

Watch the clip here:

1. The Story of A Writer

Precedent: Husbands and Wives

Whilst Deconstructing Harry sprung to mind first for me when I learned that Allen’s character was a novelist, I don’t think this late in his career, and upon such a format will Allen go for the stories-within-stories structure, the name of the series suggesting a broader character-driven drama.

In 1992, and during the much-covered scandal between him and Mia Farrow, Allen wrote and directed Husbands and Wives, which broke with his more-traditional filmmaking and editing technique in favour of an abrasive handheld style that prefigured Dogme 95. That film told the story of a self-obsessed novelist (played by Allen) who gets into a relationship with one of his younger students (Juliette Lewis). This relationship turns acidic however, once she starts criticising his work. In the above clip, Allen’s character is also a novelist who sends his barber to sleep with his work – maybe the same self-destructing narcissism from Husband And Wives will be at play in Crisis in Six Scenes.

2. Looking At The Past

Precedent: Radio Days

Allen’s biggest hit since Hannah and Her Sisters, Midnight in Paris was highly praised for its philosophical reflections about the past, yet it is his 1987 film Radio Days which is almost pitch-perfect in its nostalgic tone. Telling the story of a childhood growing up in the 40s, Allen glorifies the era of sitting around the radio with your family and listening to the latest serials. In terms of music, production design, and overall mood, Allen proved himself particularly adept in conveying the era. Crisis in Six Scenes will be set in the ’60s; here’s hoping he ditches the jazz soundtracks for once and uses rock and roll to get a feel for the revolutionary time.

3. Ensemble Drama

Precedent: Hannah and Her Sisters

Hannah and Her Sisters is arguably the platonic ideal of a Woody Allen film, with its large canvas of characters, light philosophising, New York setting, and the way it expertly blends tragedy and comedy to create a fairly deep film that goes by rather briskly. It is a difficult balancing act, yet for Allen the new format of a six part TV series may allow him more breathing room to engage in such expansive yet intimate storytelling. The clip in the Barber shop seems to hint at comedy, yet with Allen, as in his characters’ subplot in Hannah and Her Sisters, misery is never very far away.

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4. Getting Serious

Precedent: Another Woman

Despite being largely known as a comedian and comic director, Woody Allen has directed his fair share of serious films, from the Bergmanesque Interiors to the Strindberg-baiting September. The vast majority of his serious films haven’t achieved the same recognition as his “earlier, funnier” films, but the character drama Another Woman, is usually regarded as his best straight drama. Fronted by the excellent Gena Rowlands (known best for starring in her husband John Cassavetes’ films) it tells the story of a woman who seems to have it all together, but only as a result of severe emotional repression. Will Elaine May (who doesn’t have quite the dramatic talent as Rowlands) take on a similar role here, or instead play to her natural comic strengths like in Small Town Crooks?

5. Story of A Family

Precedent: Everyone Says I Love You

Everyone Says I Love You, arguably Allen’s most underrated movie, is a hilarious musical for people who normally dislike musicals. Gone are the belting star performances and general sense of corniness, in its place is a film where the singers (regular actors) can’t actually sing very well, making their struggles all that more relatable. Adjunct to this heartwarming premise is a multi-layered depiction of a family who experience differing results in life and love. Given that Crisis in Six Scenes is also a family drama, lets hope Allen can again match that same feather-weight combination of banter and heartbreak.

6. Social Critique

Precedent: Zelig

Woody Allen is not known as a political filmmaker, but with Zelig he possibly created one of the best political allegories in the fantastical depiction of a chameleon-like man who is described as the ultimate conformist. By depicting a man who becomes a legend by fitting in, Allen slyly comments on the insidious nature of groupthink. A Crisis in Six Scenes has been touted as looking (possibly like Philip Roth’s American Pastoral) at political upheaval in the 60s. Maybe, counter to Zelig, it will be about how middle-class families act during social as opposed to political revolutions, and whether they approve or disagree with the emerging counterculture.

Will you be watching the upcoming series?


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