Radio Days (Woody Allen, 1987)
Woody Allen’s 1980’s were marked by a succession of near-perfect and near-masterpiece movies. Just think of Hannah and Her Sisters, Zelig, The Purple Rose of Cairo, and Crimes and Misdemeanours. Well, Radio Days sure inserts itself like a charm in this corpus of films. With this movie, Woody revisits his childhood memories of the great era of radio shows in the 1940’s. With his narration and a bunch of his regular actors: Mia Farrow, Julie Kavner, Danny Aiello, Josh Mostel, Jeff Daniels, Diane Wiest, and Diane Keaton. The autobiographical line of the film and the young Joe (portrayed by a young Seth Green) representing Woody himself, is bold and evident. However, his storytelling is wry and pitch-perfect.
The story can relate to one of Allen’s masters Federico Fellini’s film Amarcord as for the nostalgia and the personal recollection of moments of pre-teen and teen years. Even if bits of Radio Days remind of Fellini’s masterpiece, the film is very personal and doesn’t have to envy to the Maestro. The vignettes recalling the greatest moments of radio of the time and the favourite shows of the family are sometimes absurd, hilarious, touching, and always very Allenian. The colourful palette of the sets of every character are superb and Mia Farrow’s performance is outstanding. Her role of Sally White, the young woman who wants to do radio and get every opportunity to do show business is very well served by her writer.
Being too young to have actually lived this time of Radio and the mental picturing of the events, shows, and gossips of the media I can relate to the phenomenon of television when I grew up myself in the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, even if I haven’t lived in the era the film immerses us with a color and passion that Woody’s nostalgia and souvenirs embellishes or exaggerates. Roger Ebert described the film as a film without a narrative, well in some way it is right, but it is also a recollection of memories and anecdotes of the time and even if it doesn’t have a beginning and an ending the succession of vignettes is well intercalated and the reappearance of many characters over the movie gets your attention.
The best moments of Radio Days are the opening sequence of the two burglars answering the phone of the home they were robbing and winning the contest. The scene where Joe is in his dad’s arms when they learn that the little girl who fell in a well is tragically deceased. Of course, the final scene where the radio people get on the top of the club on New Year’s Eve and the snow begins falling down concludes the movie perfectly.
A moving autobiographical film that portrays another angle of the New York City of Woody Allen’s memory. A great love letter to the great years of radio and the effect it had on the life of a family of workers and the people actually working on the air.