I’m a nostalgic, sentimental person by nature. I’m a sap, really. However, I’m of the mindset that if a film uses sentiment and nostalgia as a crutch to distract from a lack of substance, it’s a failure. There are exceptions to every rule, and Radio Days (1987) is one such exception.
With Zelig I found it difficult to distract myself from how blatantly it reflected Allen’s psychology, so to speak. This is one of the main reasons I admire Allen’s work, but it’s not enough when it comes to being critical of a film. With Radio Dayssomething else comes to the surface. I’m reminded of Allen’s portrayal of himself as a child in Annie Hall (1977). I find myself connecting young Alvy and Joe (Seth Green! I knew he looked familiar!), almost as if Joe represents the continuation of Alvy’s story. Both characters represent Allen’s youth, and yet at the same time he transcends his usual self-reflexivity.
Radio Days is an ode to memory, and nostalgia, something everyone can relate to. Like the Purple Rose of Cairo (1985) (my personal favorite), Radio Days speaks to the sentimental fool in us all. Where Cairo tackled the problematic way that North American culture places ultimate significance on cinema and its escapist properties, Radio Days explores our capacity to reflect and dwell on the past, sometimes to our own detriment. To live in the past is to forgo living at all, whereas to forget it is to disregard your own personal history – what’s shaped you and created your present self. Radio Days reminds us of the potency and significance of memory.
This post was originally published on my tumblr on March 1, 2012.