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The Russian literature-spoofing Love and Death is among the favourites on offer at the Vancity Theatre this holiday season. (HANDOUT)
The Russian literature-spoofing Love and Death is among the favourites on offer at the Vancity Theatre this holiday season. (HANDOUT)


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From The Hunger Games to The Hobbit, there is no shortage of larger-than-life heroes on the big screen this holiday season – but at Vancity Theatre, the spotlight is on one of the film world’s most unlikely heroes.

Regularly portrayed as a bespectacled neurotic with far larger worries than muscle mass, Oscar-winning writer and director Woody Allen has produced more than 40 full-length features – and seven of them, along with the documentary about the famed filmmaker, are going on show in the first “season” of a four-part Allen retrospective.

The Russian literature-spoofing Love and Death, the morality-minded Crimes and Misdemeanors – shot by Ingmar Bergman cinematographer Sven Nyquist – and the star-studded musical Everyone Says I Love You are among the favourites on offer, along with Hannah and Her Sisters, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Radio Days and Shadows and Fog.

At select screenings, film instructor and historian Michael van den Bos will introduce the films.

“Woody Allen is definitely one of the outstanding comic talents that the movies have given us, and I think people loved him in the seventies because they’d never seen a hero like this. A small Jewish neurotic was not a movie type,” Vancity programmer Tom Charity says with a laugh. “And I think he found rich ground in that caricature of himself, and the fact that he could do that and still be a romantic hero was hugely appealing to everybody who wasn’t Robert Redford.”

Mr. Charity says that securing 35-mm prints of some of the films has been tricky – a notorious purist, Mr. Allen has resisted having his films released in digital format – but that it’s well worth the effort, because part of the joy of seeing Mr. Allen’s movies is going out to the theatre, as his characters so often do, and sharing the cinema experience.

“They’re definitely films that people love to see again and again, and the chance to see some of these films on the big screen doesn’t come around very often,” says Mr. Charity, whose favourite Woody Allen movie moments include the New Year’s Eve rooftop scene at the end of Radio Days and the melancholic ending of The Purple Rose of Cairo. “And having that sense of occasion is very different from flicking through Netflix and saying: ‘What do I feel like now,’ you know?”

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