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His male characters, whether they’re the famous Allen proxy, Allen himself or some other version, may often be central, but it’s his women who more often get the startling, attention-grabbing roles, in leads and support.He’s a writer-director who clearly loves women and is fascinated by them, but unusually he doesn’t let that cloud his ability to write breathing, complex, interesting, fully realized female characters.

No matter, from her unmistakable and totally individual style (resolutely anti-outrageous but still completely personalised) to the sparky intelligence that flashes through the cracks in her gauche exterior, Annie Hall is a summary lesson that in moviemaking, character isn’t just plot, isn’t just destiny, it’s absolutely everything.But in fact that honor goes to Hannah, Lee and Holly and the conflicting currents of jealousy, insecurity and love that flow between all three sisters.Farrow‘s Hannah is a classic Allen character, the “perfect” one whose perfection alienates others, and it’s a strong turn arguably bested by her co-stars.“Blue Jasmine” (review here), which opens this weekend and is a powerhouse showcase for Cate Blanchett, is the latest in a long line of Allen films to feature a tremendous female performance, which made us think about our other favorites.Through all the peaks and valleys of his career, it’s a reminder that he’s given us an embarrassment of riches in this regard—here are the premiere female roles that edge slightly above the pack for us.Last week, I was honored to have been selected to speak at the Ignite San Diego event. GREAT question, and honestly, I had never even heard of these types of events before, but someone on twitter suggested I apply to present, so I looked more into it. So here’s the thing, Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching at the inevitable speed of one second per second, with every second that passes by. Okay, I’m just going to admit it, and come out and say it.

In fact with every word and sentence you read, means the day of hallmark styled coerced love is closer and closer. The first thing you read in the post was a bold face lie. Well, by “illustrate” I mean slap together some stock graphics in photoshop or make crappy memes about your story. Where to begin, where to begin…is either going to be one of the smartest things I’ve ever written, or a couple hundred words of pure word vomit that everyone hates.

Lee (Barbara Hershey), Holly (Dianne Wiest) and Hannah (Mia Farrow) in “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1986)Yes, there’s really no way around this triple entry, which is one of the many remarkable aspects of Allen’s story of three sisters and their respective romantic entanglements—even with a cast so seemingly overpopulated, Allen manages to give time and depth to so many of them.

There’s a real skill for the skewering detail on display here—the relationship of the aging parents is only glimpsed a few times but is startlingly well-drawn, while Michael Caine‘s cheating husband, Allen’s own comic relief/ hypochondriac ex-husband and Max von Sydow‘s tortured artist/lover/mentor are all vivid enough to have been the central characters of any film.

As you might imagine, Keaton’s part was actually written for Farrow, and Allen has recently said he seriously contemplated offering to his ex-wife, even after the very dramatic and publicized split, but was talked out of the idea.

But as good as Keaton is—you’ll see our praise for her elsewhere in this list—we wanted to shine a light on some supporting female performances too, and so Anjelica Huston sprang to mind.

With Carrie Fisher also making an impression as the ultimate frenemy, and the film covering just over two tumultuous years (three Thanksgivings mirroring the three Christmases covered in Bergman‘s “Fanny and Alexander“) the scope is broad and yet Allen keeps every ball in the air, and even within such a rich feast Farrow—and Wiest and Hershey especially—each get to individually shine.