Because of the surprising success of the “auteur” movies of American New Cinema with the audience, in the early Seventies the Hollywood studios became ready to finance films like this masterpiece of the absurd by Woody Allen.
New about Allen’s generation were not only their ideas but also their approach to film making. Predecessors had to learn their craft most of the times by working as assistant directors in the studios, but Allen had learned the art as a graduate student of communication and film at New York University.
A descendant of Russian and Austrian Jewish immigrants, Woody Allen started his career as a writer for jokes and became successful as such at the early age of Seventeen. After his graduation he became a playwright, and wrote his first movie script in 1965 for the comedy “What’s New Pussycat?“. A year later he took the opportunity to direct his first first film “What’s Up Tiger Lily?” in which he took an existing Japanese spy movie (Kokusai himitsu keisatsu) and re-dubbed it in English with new comic dialogue. After Allen directed, starred in, and co-wrote “Take the Money and Run” in 1969, he got a deal with United Artists for several films, including “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex…”, which became one of his biggest financial hits grossing domestically 18 M US $ against a 2 M US $ budget, ranking on place 13 among the year’s highest grossing films.
Since then, Allen, who also could be considered as the father of the modern romantic comedy, has received four Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplays for “Annie Hall“, 1978, “Hannah and Her Sisters”, 1987, and “Midnight in Paris“, 2011, and Best Director, again for “Annie Hall”) and more screenwriting Academy Award nominations than any other writer. And although he had hits and misses at the box office, he fully has recovered with “Midnight in Paris” (2011) gaining more than 50 M US $ revenues on the domestic market.
Despite friendly recognition from the Academy, Allen has consistently refused to attend the ceremony. Back in 1974, Woody was quoted by ABC News as saying, “The whole concept of awards is silly. I cannot abide by the judgment of other people, because if you accept it when they say you deserve an award, then you have to accept it when they say you don’t”.
Professional driver Kowalski (Barry Newman) takes a bet to ride his Dodge Challenger R/T from Colorado to San Francisco in less than 15 hours. On his way he fights obstacles and gains supporters, like a blind radio DJ (Cleavon Little) who is able to scan the broadcasts of the police…
For this class I choose the uncut version that only was released in the UK and is seven minutes longer than the US movie. A typical example of a cult movie, this film was a critical as well as a financial failure upon its release in the US. However, after being successful in Europe, the film was re-released in a double bill with “The French Connection” (1971). Running in drive-in theaters and on TV afterwards, the film since then has gained a respectable cult following. Steven Spielberg has named it among his favorite movies (there are some analogies to his 1971 film “Duel”), and Quentin Tarantino paid his homage to it in “Death Proof” (2007). A remake was done for TV in 1997, and “Donnie Darko” director Richard Kelly seems currently to plan another remake for the big screen.
The film was shot by director Richard C. Serafian on a low budget of 1,6 Million US $, but gained over the years more than 12 Million US $ at the box office. Despite its many locations, the film was shot in just 38 days (instead of 60 planned days due to a sudden budget shortage through the studio) with – for its days – light-weight ARRI II cameras and a small crew of 19 (excluding actors). I will leave the end of this film up to your interpretation (before you will hear mine of course). But it might be helpful for you to consider what Barry Newman has pointed in an interview: “… no matter how far they push or chase you, no one can truly take away your freedom…”