Monday, July 25, 2011

#353. Annie Hall (1977)

Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts

Tag line: "A Nervous Romance"

Trivia:  Woody Allen originally envisioned this film as a murder mystery with a romantic sub-plot.

Woody Allen, the writer/director/star of Annie Hall, once described this Award-winning film as “a romantic comedy with a contemporary urban neurotic”. It is certainly this, and a whole lot more besides. 

Annie Hall is an account of the on-again, off-again romance between New York Jewish comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), an uptight WASP from Wisconsin. Yet despite their different backgrounds, Alvy and Annie form a deep bond with one another, which sees them discussing everything under the sun, from foreign films to their very different experiences with therapy (Alvy is amazed when, on Annie's first visit to a therapist, she breaks down and cries. “I have never cried", he says, enviously, “I whine. I sit and I whine”). The two will spend several years together, surviving a handful of break-ups and reconciliations along the way. But a trip to California, where wannabe-singer Annie meets established show-biz personality Tony Lacey (played by singer/songwriter Paul Simon), may be the final nail in the coffin of their tempestuous love affair. 

Annie Hall was a semi-autobiographical work for Allen, one in a series of movies (including such films as 1980's Stardust Memories, and Radio Days in 1986) that would delve into his past and, occasionally, the recesses of his soul. Along with the personal revelations, Annie Hall also offers up an honest look at relationships, and the ups and downs that define them. Yet it even goes a bit further than that, taking us deep inside the lives and personalities of its lead characters. Alvy spends a great deal of time reflecting on events from his childhood, back to when he and his family lived under the roller coaster at Coney Island. There are occasional visits to Annie’s past as well, along with a trip to her childhood home in Chippawa Falls, Wisconsin, where her well-to-do parents (Donald Symington and Colleen Dewhurst) and anti-semetic grandmother (Helen Ludlam) still reside. Allen even finds time to squeeze a brief animated sequence into Annie Hall, in which a cartoon Alvy asks the Witch from Snow White (who sounds exactly like Annie) if she’s upset because she’s getting her period. 

Yet despite its varying personal and psychological attributes, Annie Hall is, most definitely, a love story. Allen wrote the film with former lover Diane Keaton (whose real name is Diane Hall) in mind, and we sense that much of what transpires in the film isn’t so far removed from what really went down between them. It’s a relationship the writer/star/director obviously held dear to his heart, perhaps even the most important one in his life. 

After all, it did inspire him to create a masterpiece.

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