Deconstructing Harry (Woody Allen, 1997)

A film like Deconstructing Harry is interesting to look at in hindsight. Now, Woody Allen’s prominence has diminished, as his scandalous affairs are no longer under the lens of media scrutiny. That’s the way it works sometimes – Charlie Sheen will undoubtedly release us from his flagrant media whoring when the time comes. But unlike Sheen, I always gathered that Allen never really wanted to make his private affairs so widely known to the public. If anything, Deconstructing Harry, an extremely personal film, is Allen’s plea to be left alone.

Woody Allen is Harry Block – a writer who takes his morally questionable life as inspiration to churn out fiction. After writing a novel that only thinly veils his infidelities, he finds himself struggling to connect with anyone. This is particularly inconvenient, as he is being recognized by the university from which he was expelled. Here’s an opportunity to validate his writing while simultaneously garnering respect from his son. But getting his son to come is difficult as Harry contends with his ex-wife’s disdain. Meanwhile, Block suffers from writers block – for the first time in his life, his social life has led him to lead a relatively secluded lifestyle, with not so much as a muse to inspire him.

Deconstructing Harry relies on Harry Block’s stories to create a general sense of the sort of life Block leads. This leads to some interesting visual and narrative nuances, as the product of Block’s fiction is visualized by actors like Richard Benjamin, whereas the real-life actualization of the event features Allen (as Block). Allen tinkers around with the format throughout the film, and ultimately, despite some initial reservations I had with its style, I liked it. Something I liked a little less was the film’s spliced editing style. It acts as a hindrance, and simply calls too much attention to itself.

Despite my minor quibble with the film, I found it to be surprisingly poignant and the antithesis of a lot of Allen’s work – Deconstructing Harry is surprisingly vulgar and literal. It’s like all of Allen’s pent up frustrations were recorded and clarified to ensure that no one misunderstands where he is coming from. And it seems to have worked – Allen makes the rounds from time to time, but ultimately, any discussion about the man tends to be geared toward his films. I bet he prefers it that way. I do too.

Rating: 7/10