I have used this line many times, and I am going to use it again: Woody Allen hasn’t made a better film than Annie Hall, because no one has made a better film than Annie Hall: it’s a brilliant romantic comedy that is both funny and has a brilliant insight into the painfulness of human relationships, its experimental pushing the boundaries of film grammar, and it is an wonderful archive of seventies celebrity culture.
This is a film rich with wonderful moments, so it was hard to find the best… And even more difficult to find something that I didn’t like.
I NEED THE EGGS
1) The opening sequence – I managed to squeeze about 10 thousand words about this opening sequence for my masters dissertation on film and autobiography. As Woody is addressing the audience he is creating a unique level of subjectivity which allows us to accept that this film is a version of the story playing in his head. Only newscasters and jesters are allowed to look directly at the screen. It is possible to accept that he is sitting in his school room, and in and out of his past, because he is subverted the conventions of film… Don’t get me started on Rabelais and carnivalesque …
2) The Balcony – After taking a ride through New York in a scene that recalls The French Connection – “we can walk to the sidewalk from here” – Alvy and Annie get to know each other on the balcony. They try to hold it together as their conversation says one thing, yet their conscious says another …
3) The cocaine sneeze – It gets me every time. Annie Hall is the tale of two cities. Modernism of New York against the Post Modernism of LA. The East Coast intelligencia against the shallowness of LA where “the only cultural advantage is that you can turn right on a red light.” The man with the coke is John Doumanian who crops up in many Woody movies.
4) Standing in line for SORROW AND THE PITY – Alvy is approached by autograph hunters and after a brilliant, throw-away-line about standing with ‘the cast of The Godfather’ (Keaton played Kay Adams-Corleone), and refusing to go into a film that has already started, he is waiting in line and getting increasingly annoyed by an academic pouring opinion into his ear. He brings Marshall McLuhan to refute his assertions, “If only life was like this …” Indeed. This scene is the grandfather to Charlie Kaufman and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
LA DI DA, LA DI DA
5) ANHEDONIA – the rejected ‘working title’ was the medical term for the inability to experience pleasure. Fortunately, it was rejected for ANNIE HALL which is Diane Keaton’s ‘real’ name, but it was used in some European countries. It is over-playing his hand. It could have been worse, there were others rejected: “Alvy and me”, “A Rollercoaster Named Desire”, “Me and my Goy” and “It had to be Jew”… La di da de da da
I’m sure this had a full title the first time I looked, then it disappeared. I put “: Annie Hall” back in the title, sorry if this ain’t right.
On a more relevant note, it strikes me that Woody Allen is probably the only filmmaker for whom I’ve seen most of his films without really knowing anything about the man, beyond the salacious tabloid gossip. I’d be really interested to know, for example, what made him change tack from his earlier slapstick films (most of which, with the exception of the wonderful ‘Bananas’, I find a bit overrated) to virtually invent a new kind of filmmaking with ‘Love and Death’ and ‘Annie Hall’. Does that documentary address these kinds of questions? I’d also be interested in any book recommendations.
Thanks for the edit. It was vying to be a literal version of The Friday Five with No Name!
I have quite an extensive library of Woody Allen related material that I’ll feature in Starburst Memories over the next few months. In answer to your question, I think it is about his maturity. He came to filmmaking relatively late (his mid thirties). It was a desire to explore different aspects of his interests. The documentary does cover this shift, but WOODY ALLEN ON WOODY ALLEN with Stig Bjorkman probably deals with his search for artistic credibility better.
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