Release date: April 20th, 1977
Running time: 93 minutes
Director: Woody Allen
Writers: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Goldblum
Woody Allen is a man who needs no introduction. As a writer and director he is best known for his neurotic New Yorker characters that are constantly torn between a love affair with a city that bred them, and those that inhabit it. Annie Hall is a film that fits into this mould. In some ways, the boy-meets-girl-tragi-comedy with a resolved (but not necessarily happy) ending is a tired genre. Films like this are pumped out at such a rate that the cinemas can’t handle the quantity, and many of them go straight to DVD. This is one reason why some films go straight to DVD, anyway.
That’s why it’s worth turning to one of the masters of the art to see how it has been done in the past, and, more importantly, how it is best done. First time round Annie Hall feels like a film that you’ve already seen. The formula is perfectly delivered and has a strange, familiar feel to it. Even particular scenes come with a feeling of déjà vu. Then the penny drops: this film has been parodied so many times that you know it without having seen the film. From That 70’s Show to Family Guy, Annie Hall has crept into popular cultural over twenty years on from its original release (references that you will recognise instantly after having watched the film).
The story follows comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) as he revisits his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) and tries to understand where it all fell apart. A series of unsuccessful relationships are underpinned (and explained) by his witty and self-deprecating arguments with his girlfriends, friends and many times himself.
One of the most admirable elements of the film is that Allen isn’t afraid to let the film be funny: a simple, but underrated necessity in this kind of film. The romance and emotion of the film is never compromised by the humour, but instead the comedy develops the self-destructive elements of Alvy’s personality. The peaks of comedy in his character are also his most pathetic moments. A scene that is both entertaining and distressing is when Alvy’s play is being rehearsed. The scene in the play recreates an earlier incident from the film, it does however rewrite the ending to Alvy’s favour.
Allen’s trademark talent for tearing away from the reality of a film can be seen time and time again throughout Annie Hall, as the characters move out of scene to interact with each other and their memories: a technique which is possibly over-used, but still effective in breaking down the fourth wall and mocking itself as a film.
Annie Hall is perfect to begin a journey into the world of Woody Allen’s writing and directing. Mighty Aphrodite (1995) is a great film to follow Annie Hall up with, as you can see how he has built on the emotion-comedy combination over the years. Or, for the more farcical side of Woody Allen, Sleeper (1973) shows his true talent for physical comedy.
Jack is an English Literature student in his early Twenties (The Golden Age!) at the University of Leeds. He insists on saying that he’s originally from Slough, Berkshire which is the setting of Ricky Gervais’ comedy series The Office – and not a day goes by that he’s not reminded of that fact… Irrespective of being mocked for it, Jack still is, and will most likely remain, a big Gervais fan.
And he sure knows how to spend his time. Having subscribed to a well known DVD delivery service for the past three years, Jack spends half of his days watching DVDs – and the other half on catch-up websites watching TV programmes.