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Radio Days: ??Forgive me if I tend to romanticize the past.??

“Radio Days” is a partly autobiographical 1987 film, written and directed by Woody Allen, which spirals beautifully around the theme of nostalgia. It recounts the various incidents that occurred in an American family’s life during the Golden Age of Radio. The film is about young Joe, and is narrated by him when he’s much older, with a slight tinge of sadness and humor in his voice. Joe lives in Brooklyn, surrounded by a large, loving family and mischievous, naive friends, who ride their bikes around the humble borough of New York looking for hidden fragments of life and laughter. Simultaneously, the movie also recounts Joe’s several encounters with the world of television, radio, and the shimmering corners of Manhattan, with several interlinked anecdotes starring movie stars and singers. It journeys back to a time when things were simpler, more stripped down. Back when glamour and stardom meant something different and their world was a more hypnotic illusion than it is today. Each tale in “Radio Days” is a parallel loop, running alongside one another like two separate waves breaking against the same wall; flowing on the same ground. There’s Aunt Bea and her usually fruitless search for love; the aspiring singer Sally, with stars in her eyes; the over-the-hill celebrity who, time and again, finds himself on a familiar rooftop with young starlets and their burning cigarettes, and the tragic national story of little Polly and her untimely demise. The movie encompasses several check-posts along the same spectrum and focuses heavily on trivial, rib-tickling anecdotes that Joe has to share, which ultimately evoke a string of emotions not just in the viewers, but in the characters as well.

Like many films out there, this one attempts to capture the forever-evasive concept of childhood as well, and it is serviced wonderfully by the seaside, accordions and saxophones, and the magical streets of New York city. If the movie were a vine, sentimentality, humor and the past would be the wall it creeps up on. Which brings me back to what I started with; the theme of nostalgia. This lovely Woody Allen picture floats in an ocean of longing and tragedy; it rests in a large room with the familiar scent of a time gone by lingering around each frame and each word. And that breaks your heart a little.

“Radio Days” ends on a beautiful, sad note, on the last night of 1943. A violin starts playing a soft tune and we end right back up on a familiar New York city rooftop. A large neon hat lifts and the narrator talks about how that special, mundane year always remained cocooned in a relevant corner of his mind. The lights on the hat slowly faint and he expresses his moroseness over how quickly time had drifted past him. The cool, crisp air is thick with melancholia as the giant hat is lowered and the new year’s delight melts away quietly as the next year’s dawn beckons. The lights go off completely.

A few minutes later, the violin fades in the background, and we’re left deeply immersed in silence.

-Aarushi Ganju

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