For Reel

Radio Days (1987)
April 29, 2017, 6:59 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Woody Allen
3 Stars
Radio DaysOn the heels of one of his most narratively ambitious features (the much lauded Hannah and Her Sisters), Woody Allen released this equally ambitious piece of nostalgia that serves as a series of anecdotes about what it was to grow up in the 1940s. Santo Loquasto’s set design recreates a crowded, rambunctious house of the period—a place where the radio was always on, its legends inevitably burrowing into the inhabitant’s psyches. Allen’s wistful voiceover confirms that the film’s ambition is to serve as a sharing of memories rather than to string the audience through a typical narrative, and as such Radio Days admirably suggests the ways that memories (already prone to half-truths) can intermingle with media in unusual ways. That is, as much as it recounts what it was like to grow up in the 40s, Radio Days spends much of its runtime detailing anecdotes relating to radio, such as the fact that a famous gunslinger could actually be voiced by a man with the stature of Wallace Shawn. And yet, if the radio could lie to the listener, it was a lie that its devotees truly believed in—a relationship not far removed from the ways we interact with our own histories. If Radio Days is successful in independent vignettes, however, its aimlessness comes to its detriment. Memories are founded not only by the “tone” of a specific period, but by the hopes and dreams of the people you surround yourself with. In Radio Days, the supporting characters are largely comical afterthoughts, whose interactions with the Allen stand-in are largely forgettable. For a film that celebrates humanity, none of the people in it particularly resonate. We can take Annie Hall similarly as a film about memory, and if that film lacks the obsessive tone control of this one, it more profoundly deals with how our interpersonal relationships shape the people that we come to be.

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