I have set a goal for myself, and that is to present you with at least five Woody Allen movies. Last week, I gave you Crimes and Misdemeanors. Today, I give you Annie Hall—the movie considered by many as Allen’s best. If you ask me, I like his other film, Manhattan, better, but that is a movie for another time. Let us not digress!
So, where were we?
Prior to Annie Hall, which came out in 1977, Woody Allen’s oeuvre was composed of just slapstick farces a la Buster Keaton’s movies and The Three Stooges. When Annie Hall came out, everyone was in awe. It was precocious in terms of script, which was highly cerebral. It had cinematography so beautiful each frame was a work of art. Its editing was superb—non-linear and peppered with dream sequences but still very much cohesive. I especially loved it that once in a while, the characters would stop in the middle of a scene to stare into the camera and address the audience, or to watch their younger selves do a scene. The movie is literally a one-and-a-half-hour conversation between the main characters and the audience, and sometimes the viewer cannot help but answer back (I know I did, at one point, and I ended up looking very silly.). When Annie Hall premiered, everyone agreed that the movie’s spectacular in every way. No wonder it won 4 Academy Awards that year, including best picture and best director.
Here’s an embarrassing little secret I would like to share with you: I like to re-watch Woody Allen’s films every now and then because I like to gauge my intellectual capacity according to how much I comprehend his movies’ dialogue. I know the idea sounds very stupid- and it probably is- but allow me to explain myself. You see, Allen’s movies are overflowing with literary, political, and sociological references that the viewer constantly finds himself fumbling for the pause button and consulting the dictionary. His movies, like I said, are highly cerebral. Mothers and sons argue about the reality of the expansion of the universe, people discuss the similarities between Groucho Marx and Freud, everyone listens to Wagner and watches Ingmar Bergman, and lovers’ idea of a movie date is watching a Nazi documentary. In Allen’s movies, everyone appears to have at least an MA degree. When the day comes when I can already understand every single word uttered in his films, I believe I may already consider myself smart. Every time I watch his films, I cannot help but fantasize being just like his characters. Never mind that they are psychotic, I love it that they have ridiculously high IQs. Annie Hall is especially close to my heart because it features Woody Allen’s greatest character—himself.
Annie Hall is semi-autobiographical. Its leading man, Alvy Singer, is based on Woody Allen, which explains why the character is terribly insecure, anti social, passive-aggressive, and hopelessly obsessed with death. Allen’s then off-screen lover Diane Keaton plays Annie Hall, the leading lady. Annie Hall is based on Keaton and is in fact the actress’ real name. The movie chronicles the birth, growth, and dissipation of Annie and Alvy’s love affair, from the moment they first meet at the tennis courts to their first fight (Alvy forces Annie to take college courses in an attempt to make her smarter), to their bland, anti-climactic breakup. In the middle of the movie, right after the couple breaks up for the first time, Alvy, in his frustration, voices his disbelief to a random street person. The old lady, full of wisdom, replies, “Love fades,” and that pretty much sums up the message of the film. Relationships do not end abruptly. From the moment Alvy and Annie first meet, their relationship is already on its way to its death, slowly but surely. Annie Hall is a very personal film (It has revealed more about Woody Allen than all of his other films combined.), but it is, nonetheless, a very realistic portrait of human relationships in general. “Love fades.”
Annie: “Do you love me?” Alvy: “Love is too weak a word. I lurve you.” (Rache, this made me wonder if Woody Allen coined “lurve.” What do you think?)
Annie to Alvy: “You only give me books with death in the title!”
Alvy twice quoted Groucho Marx: “I would not like to belong to any club that would have me for a member.”
Rating: It’s one of the greatest films of all time—and that is not just according to me!