DOM: Annie Hall (Allen, US, 1977)

“I sound like FM radio”

Alvy: ‘It’s all mental masturbation.’

Annie: ‘Oh well, now we’re getting to a subject you know something about!’

Alvy, ‘Hey, don’t knock masturbation, its sex with someone I love.’

When I was about 18 I was sent to the video shop to choose a movie for a group of friends and I came back with Crimes & Misdemeanors; I wasn’t sent again but I enjoyed it.

It was another couple of years before I was able to catch up with anything else by Woody Allen and next up was Manhattan. I loved the Gershwin music, the black and white compositions and the dialogue, but when it was shown on BBC-2, panned and scanned, it had an irritating square in the corner for the entire film (the sort you get on ITV just before the adverts are about to come on).

A few months later they showed a short season of his films on BBC-2. I missed Take The Money & Run but the others were Play It Again Sam, Sleeper, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories and Hannah & Her Sisters. I enjoyed them all and continued to enjoy his films up to and including Husbands & Wives or up until he married his daughter (Soon-Yi Previn) in 1997, then he lost the plot and his films have been more miss than hit since.

Woody Allen began stand up comedy in New York and moved into writing for TV in the 60s. His first film was What’s New Pussycat? which Warren Beatty had hired him to write and star in. Beatty quit when Allen was getting all the best lines and Peter Sellers  then came on board subsequently stealing all the best lines. Allen then knew he had to take control of his own writing, something that has cost him in box office returns over the years.

After his appearance as Jimmy Bond in Casino Royale he directed Take The Money & Run, then made the rarely seen but very funny Bananas, Play It Again Sam (directed by Herbert Ross, but based on Allen’s own play), Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex (But Were Afraid To Ask), Sleeper (Barry Norman’s Fave) and Love & Death before making a great leap forward with Annie Hall.

He has said that he wanted to make a deeper film that wasn’t just clowning around and indeed he did. It tells the story of writer / comedian Alvy Singer and his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), where he looks back upon why the relationship ended.

Allen refuses to acknowledge that the film is autobiographical, but Keaton has said that it partially is. Keaton’s own grandmother was called Annie Hall and she used her own clothes in the film which set a trend in the late 70s. Although Keaton & Allen had been in a relationship, he began a two year relationship with Stacey Nelkin who only appears in one scene.

On watching it again recently I had forgotten that Paul Simon is in it. Look out for a young Jeff Goldblum and look even harder for Sigourney Weaver who plays Allen’s date at the end of the film.

Annie Hall was co-written with Marshall Brickman (who also wrote Sleeper, Manhattan and Manhattan Murder Mystery with Allen) and cultural academic Malcolm McLuhan appears as himself discussing Fellini (this was after Federico Fellini and Luis Bunuel had both turned down the offer of a cameo).

When I first started watching Woody Allen films I loved the fact that all the titles looked the same, they were all about 90 minutes long and Tony Roberts was in them all!(in fact he isn’t in them all, he is only in Play It Again Sam, Annie Hall, Stardust Memories, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Hannah & Her Sisters and Radio Days, but it seemed like them all ).

I think this is still his most enjoyable film and perhaps the best comedy of the 1970s, so it must have come as quite a shock that it picked up the Oscar for Best Picture and two for Allen, one for director and one for co-screenwriter; he refused to attend the ceremony, saying he would rather play Jazz and that is what he did.

In a way, it was quite a shock that Derek Malcolm chose Broadway Danny Rose, a film which I don’t think would make my top 10 Allen films! However after writing this and name checking all these wonderful films it makes me want to watch them all over again!

5 responses to “DOM: Annie Hall (Allen, US, 1977)

  1. It’s a great film, obviously, but I’m not really sure why it’s held in such higher esteem than everything else he’s done bar ‘Manhattan’. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s the first “grown-up” Allen film after the bridge between the slapstick and the serious that was ‘Love and Death’. So it’s the original, but in many ways I think he managed to refine the formula over the next decade. I think Degsy Malcolm is spot on: my favourite Woody Allen film is ‘Broadway Danny Rose’.

    ‘Bananas’ is my favourite pre-Annie Hall

    “It was pithy. It had… great pith.”
    “Yeth, pith.”

    • Allen hasn’t made a better film than ANNIE HALL because nobody has made a better film than ANNIE HALL. Why is it so great? I believe that there is much more to it than meets the eye, it is very film literate and like the films that Allen admires, it successfully creates subjectivity. It is very difficult to represent autobiography effectively in films and ANNIE HALL does it be displacing the natural order of things. On the face of it, it is an old fashioned screw-ball comedy placed in seventies New York, but watch it again and you’ll appreciate that its all taking place in Alvy’s head.

      2013 is the year of Woody. I have set myself the task of watching all of his films. Watch this space!

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