Deconstructing Woody

“This guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.’ The doctor says, ‘Well, why don’t you turn him in?’ And the guy says, ‘I would but I need the eggs.’”
— Woody Allen in Annie Hall

Woody Allen is famous for, among other things, wearing his neuroses on his sleeve. He’s been in psychoanalysis for his entire adult life and aside from the traditional benefits of therapy Allen has found in these sessions much material for his comedy and films.

What do Allen’s movies say about human psychology? That question is addressed by area psychoanalysis experts in Four Films by Woody Allen, the latest edition of the Searching the Psyche Through Cinema series sponsored by the Greater Kansas City and Topeka Psychoanalytic Center.

Presented at 1:30 p.m. Sundays at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., each program in the free series offers a movie written and directed by (and sometimes starring) Woody Allen, followed by a discussion of the film’s psychoanalytic themes.

The lineup:

January 15: Vicky Cristina Barcelona
In this 2008 hit, two young American women – one (Scarlett Johansson) a free-living daredevil, the other (Rebecca Hall) more reserved – spend a summer in Barcelona. There they fall under the spell of a charming Spaniard (Javier Bardem) and encounter his unstable ex-girlfriend (Penélope Cruz, who won an Oscar for her performance).

Presenters: Dr. Marilyn Metzl of Psychological Educational Associates and Julie Farstad, professor of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.

January 29: Crimes and Misdemeanors
Two parallel story lines – one comic and one tragic – are woven together in this 1989 release. In one a documentary filmmaker (Allen) struggles for romantic and professional success; in the other a respected and married physician (Martin Landau) becomes involved with an emotionally fragile woman (Anjelica Huston) and turns to extreme measures to extricate himself. With Alan Alda, Mia Farrow, Claire Bloom and Sam Waterston.

Presenters: Psychologist Dr. Claude Brunell and Dr. Tom Poe, UMKC professor of communications and film studies.

February 5: Hannah and Her Sisters
Members of an extended New York family – especially three sisters (Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest) – look for love in a tale from 1986 that begins and ends with big Thanksgiving dinners. Allen plays the husband of one sister. Michael Caine won an Oscar for his work here.

Presenters: Psychoanalyst Dr. Joanne Hindman and Dr. Melissa Lenos, professor of English and film studies at Donnelly College.

February 19: Match Point
In one of his rare “serious” movies, Allen turns his camera on a working-class London tennis pro (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who marries into a wealthy family and then begins an ill-advised affair with a troubled young American (Scarlett Johansson). Things quickly turn dark in this 2005 tale that reminded many critics of a latter-day Hitchcock thriller.

Presenters: Psychoanalyst Dr. David Donovan and Corey Antis, professor of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.

To RSVP call 816.701.3407

About the Author

Robert W. Butler is a lifelong Kansas City area resident, a graduate of Shawnee Mission East High School and the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. For several decades he was the movie editor of the Kansas City Star; he now writes a movie-themed blog at He's married to the former Ellen Vaughan; they are the proud parents of LA-based comedian, writer, director and TV personality Blair Butler. He used to be a dog person but now lives with two cats, thus demonstrating the flexibility of the human condition.