Annie Hall

April 3rd, 2012 by | Tags:

Annie Hall, written and directed by Woody Allen, 1977 (script, Amazon VOD): I watched this for the first time after talking to Sean Witzke about it. I liked and disliked it at the same time. I thought it was pretty well written and the direction was great, but I never really got into any of the cast. Woody Allen as Alvy Singer was basically my exact mental image of Woody Allen, which was funny to see. I guess I’ve absorbed some of this movie over the years. But every character wasn’t repellent so much as… just kind of there. I never found myself caring what they did, though I did have a strange sense of dread every time Alvy met a new woman. It’s well-acted, but like… there’s something I didn’t get here.

The direction, though, rules. It only took a handful of scene changes for me to pick up on what Allen was doing with the transitions between scenes. I didn’t even have the words to describe how I felt about the transitions before I reread the first issue of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons’s Watchmen and everything clicked. I don’t know that it works for every transition, but I got the feeling that each scene built on the previous one or was directly connected to it, either by way of a scrap of dialogue, a phrase, or some theme that was being explored.

Sometimes it was overt, as in when Alvy’s mother is talking about how he distrusted the world and they cut to Alvy ranting about hearing someone muttering “jew” under his breath. Other times, it was more subtle, like when Alvy says he needs a cold shower and then we cut to Rob telling him that he’s gonna send him to the showers. There were a few of those bits, and I really enjoyed them.

The cuts also made the movie more interesting to me in a structural way. It feels like a cut-up movie, like if a movie had been made and then diced into pieces and… not rearranged, since it’s mostly in chronological order, but had all the fat cut out, I guess. Annie Hall feels lean, and I couldn’t find any wasted space. I didn’t really care what happened to the characters, but I did like seeing what happened… which I guess is a kind of caring. (Now I’m wondering why my reaction is “I like this but I don’t like it.”) But the scenes are short and snappy, the dialogue pops, and I don’t think I was ever bored. It’s easy to see why so many people love this movie.

It’s such a funny movie, too, and I loved how weird the cast was. Christopher Walken as a creepy brother, Jeff Goldblum as a party member with one line, and Shelley Duvall was the reporter, right? Alvy’s asides to the camera were all pretty good, and I loved the subtitles when he and Annie were freaking out about each other. I think my favorite part was the cocaine scene.

There’s this one bit in Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot Le Fou, one of my favorite movies, when Ferdinand looks at the camera and says “All she thinks about is fun.” Marianne notices, and says “Who are you talking to?” “The audience,” Ferdinand replies. I love that bit, that conscious recognition that you’re watching a movie, and a lot of Annie Hall gave me that same feeling. The asides, the pace, the editing… it’s a movie that couldn’t be a play or a book or a song or anything but exactly what it is. Pierrot Le Fou lingers and lavishes attention on its subjects, while Annie Hall hits you with rapid-fire anecdotes. There’s a charm and a conscious acknowledgement that it’s a movie, a filmed record of someone’s life. I thought that was a very cool touch, and it deepened my appreciation of the movie. “I’m a movie,” both films say. “Watch me.”

I said, “I liked and disliked it at the same time.” Now that I’ve actually written this out, I’m gonna go with just, “I liked it on several different levels.” I don’t know why I’m so hesitant to admit that.

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6 comments to “Annie Hall”

  1. It actually was! That cut-up feeling, it comes from the fact that Allen wrote it as a murder mystery/ comedy, and he balked at the last second and trimmed out all the allusions to that, just to focus on the relationship.

  2. One of my favorite movies, on another note is midnight in paris any good?

  3. Actually, IIRC, it was Manhattan the one that was written as a murder mystery (elements of that idea found their way to Manhattan Murder Mystery, more than a decade later). But Rafael is right in that this was basically a cut-up movie. Its original title was Anhedonia (the inability to experience pleasure), and was a longer, more surrealist movie. Alvy’s relationship with Annie was just one of the subplots. However, inthe editing room they realised that the movie was kind of flat and was only picking up steam in the Annie scenes. So a lot of the credit for the movie being what it eventually was should go to Ralph Rosenblum, the brilliant editor of the film.

    Rosenblum co-wrote a book called “When the Shooting Stops… The Cutting Begins”, and I highly recommended. It is part his memoirs, part film editing history, and part in depth examination of the process behind some of his most interesting editing jobs. There’s an entire chapter devoted to Annie Hall.

  4. The only Woody Allen film I’ve ever laughed at is the newer one with Larry David, because Larry David is inherently funny…somehow I just don’t dig Woody’s humor. His direction, on the other hand, always kicks major ass.

  5. @Clarence Boyce: I was a fan of Allen’s in the 70s, fell out of love with the stuff he did in the 80s, and then fell back in love with it when I saw Bullets Over Brroadway in the 90s. I think Midnight In Paris is his best movie yet, for reasons I can’t go into without spoiling the ending something fierce. So I’ll just say that it’s well worth watching.

  6. @Prodigal: Thanks dude i just rented it tonight,judging from the first 20 mins its great