Broadcast: 30 April – 1 May, 2021

Duration: 5 hours 58 minutes

PROJECTIONS: Woody Allen – The Cinema of Neurosis

Woody Allen is a highly prolific filmmaker; he has directed over 50 feature titles in a career that spans almost 60 years. His directorial style ranges from slapstick to dramatic art cinema with dark philosophical undertones, often combining tragic and comic elements. He frequently stars in his films, typically in the anxious, insecure intellectual persona he developed for stand-up in the 1960s, which he insists is very different from his own disposition. There are few filmmakers who have represented psychoanalytic concepts as consistently as Allen has; he is the premier Freudian director, having spent several decades undergoing analysis, so it would be remiss of us to omit him. Oedipal fantasies, aggressive impulses, death anxiety, polymorphous perversity, and hypochondria have figured largely in his repertoire.


My films are a form of psychoanalysis, except that it is I who am paid, which changes everything.WOODY ALLEN

It bears mentioning that since the early 1990s, and especially in recent times, Allen’s private life has been a controversial topic in the public discourse. An allegation of child molestation, and marrying his longterm ex-girlfriend’s young adopted daughter, led to a media frenzy and effective ‘cancellation’; Allen as cause célèbre never fails to provoke an impassioned response, with divergent opinions about his moral integrity. However, his professional output remains objectively important to many cinephiles, and he has undeniably made a huge contribution to the popularisation of psychoanalysis in mainstream culture, therefore a dedicated space for interested parties to engage deeply and critically with his content is warranted.

The aim of this course is to present Woody Allen’s work as the Cinema of Neurosis, and highlight the running theme in his stories about obstacles that prevent people from enjoying life. As outlined in Sigmund Freud’s case study of Ernst Lanzer (the ‘Rat Man’), the neurotic individual shows resistance in the pursuit of satisfying experiences. A lot of Allen’s films appear to coalesce on the neurotic structure, revolving around existential crises, self-sabotage, obsessing over minor details, and the compulsion to repeat negative life patterns. Often the neurotic person is referred to as “anally retentive”, or comes across as an inhibited figure retreating from life, delaying commitment, doubting the words they use, and fearing punishment. As we will discover, Woody Allen’s most iconic characters seem to be quintessential neurotics, stuck in the ambivalent space between love and death, forever preoccupied with the question: “What is the meaning of life?”

Advance viewing is optional. Film scenes will be shown during the course. Recommended reading: Apropos of Nothing (W. Allen, 2020) Published by: Arcade

Part 1: LOVE

  • Love and Death (1975)
  • Annie Hall (1977)
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
  • Husbands and Wives (1992)
  • Celebrity (1998)
  • Anything Else (2003)
  • Wonder Wheel (2017)
  • A Rainy Day in New York (2019)

Part 2: DEATH

  • Interiors (1978)
  • Manhattan (1979)
  • Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
  • Another Woman (1988)
  • Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
  • Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
  • Deconstructing Harry (1997)
  • To Rome With Love (2012)

PROJECTIONS is psychoanalysis for film interpretation. PROJECTIONS empowers film spectators to express subjective associations they consider to be meaningful. Expertise in psychoanalytic theory is not necessary – the only prerequisite is the desire to enter and inhabit the imaginary world of film, which is itself a psychoanalytic act. MARY WILD, a Freudian cinephile from Montreal, is the creator of PROJECTIONS.


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