Annie Hall – 1977
Director – Woody Allen
Starring – Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, and Tony Roberts
I know, I know, it seems like sacrilege that a film student, and self professed movie fan like myself, has never seen Annie Hall (till now of course), but somehow I’ve managed to live my entire life never having seen a Woody Allen movie until just this last year. In the time leading up to this year I’ve heard so much praise lumped on Woody Allen, that I started going out of my way to avoid his movies, the one exception being part of Hollywood Ending that I saw while on a trans-Atlantic flight. Needless to say I started to grow a bit of chip on my shoulder about him, but now that I can finally legitimately weigh in on a couple examples of his work I have to say that I don’t get what most of the hype was about.
Annie Hall, like a lot of his work is a little too self obsessed for my liking. Allen’s nervous delivery doesn’t really work for me, and the stories that his characters are entangled in are decidedly unrealistic and predicated on the aforementioned neuroses. Of the few Allen pictures that I’ve seen (Manhattan Murder Mystery, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Manhattan, and now Annie Hall), all are filled with characters who never have to work, never have any real responsibilities, and seemingly don’t interact like any people that I have ever seen, met, or heard of. Each of them has a loose story strung together with numerous instances of Allen and the gang sitting around talking. That’s it. No action. No plot. Nothing.
A few things that I really did enjoy about Annie Hall:
1. The parts when Woody would interact with us, the audience, by breaking the fourth wall by giving us some insight into the characters and changing up the humor. These moments always provided the most laughs and the most interesting camera work (use of split screens, sight gags, steady cam, slapstick humor, etc.), and provided a respite from the monotony of the rest of the film.
2. Seeing younger versions of actors that I know from later films (Jeff Goldblum, Shelley Duvall, Paul Simon, and Christopher Walken).
3. Allen’s obvious love for movies. I love movies too, so I can certainly get behind his references to Truffaut, Bergman, The Sorrow and the Pity, and litany of other nods and winks to the greatest art-form around.
I should note that I do not like Diane Keaton at all. I thought she was a bad choice for the Godfather, I am completely uninterested in her recent stable of romantic comedy drivel, and she is a huge reason for why I have avoided Woody Allen so far. Needless to say, that my favorite Woody Allen film so far has been the one that she wasn’t in (Crimes and Misdemeanors). I’m not sure I have a very rational reason for disliking her as much as I do, but regardless the likability of actors IS a factor in what I think of the movies that I see.
Of the 4 different Woody Allen films that I have seen, I would place Annie Hall at number 3 behind the fantastic Crimes and Misdemeanors, and the beautiful Manhattan, but way far ahead of the piece of shit Manhattan Murder Mystery. Now, most would say that I don’t really like Woody Allen’s comedies, and I would agree, however that doesn’t mean that I’m not looking forward to seeing more. For some reason or another, the anticipation of seeing something that everyone else respects and loves is enough, so long as Diane Keaton isn’t in all of them.
Final thoughts: Woody Allen seems to have built a career on re-making the same three movies over and over again (Neurotic Comedies, Ingmar Bergman Rip-offs, and his New York love letters). One I love, one I absolutely hate, and the third I don’t particularly crave, but I enjoy watching anyway.