Annie Hall

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USA, 1977

Director: Woody Allen

Production: Jack Rollins-Charles H. Joffe Productions; Deluxe color, 35mm, Panavision; running time: 93 minutes. Released 1977 by United Artists. Filmed 1976 in New York City and Los Angeles.

Producers: Charles H. Joffe and Jack Rollins with Robert Greenhut and Fred T. Gallo; screenplay: Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman; photography: Gordon Willis; editor: Ralph Rosenblum; sound engineer: James Sabat; production designers: Robert Drumheller and Justin Scoppa Jr.; art director: Mel Bourne; costume designer: Ruth Morley.

Cast: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer); Diane Keaton (Annie Hall); Tony Roberts (Rob); Paul Simon (Tony Lacey); Carol Kane (Allison); Janet Margolin (Robin); Shelley Duvall (Pam); Christopher Walken (Duane Hall); Collen Dewhurst (Annie's mother); Donald Symington (Annie's father); Helen Ludlam (Grammy Hall); Joan Newman (Alvy's mother); Mordecai Lawner (Alvy's father); Jonathan Munk (Alvy as a child); Ruth Volner (Alvy's aunt); Martin Rosenblatt (Alvy's uncle); Hy Ansel (Joey Nichols); Rashel Novikoff (Aunt Tessie); Russell Horton (Man in line at movies); Marshall McLuhan (Himself); Dick Cavett (Himself); Christine Jones (Dorrie); Mary Boland (Miss Reed); Wendy Gerard (Janet); John Doumanian (Man with drugs); Bob Maroff (1st Man in front of the movie theater); Rick Petrucelli (2nd Man in front of the movie theater); Lee Callahan (Cashier); Chris Gampel (Doctor); Mark Lenard (Marine officer); Dan Ruskin (Comic at the "Rallye"); John Glover (Actor friend of Annie's); Bernie Styles (Comic's business manager); Johnny Haymer (Comic); Ved Bandhu (Maharishi); John Dennis Johnston (L.A. policeman); Lauri Bird (Tony Lacey's girl); Jim McKrell, Jeff Goldblum, William Callawy, Roger Newman, Alan Landers, and Dean Sarah Frost (Partygoers); Vince O'Brien (Hotel doctor); Humphrey Davis (Alvy's psychiatrist); Veronica Radburn (Annie's psychiatrist); Robin Mary Paris (Girl in Alvy's play); Charles Levin (Man in Alvy's play); Wayne Carson (Stage manager of Alvy's play); Michael Karm (Director of Alvy's play); Beverly D'Angelo (Actress in Rob's TV show); Tracy Walter (Actor in Rob's TV show); Sigourney Weaver (Alvy's friend at the movies); Walter Bernstein (Annie's friend at the movies).

Awards: Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Keaton), and Best Original Screenplay, 1977; New York Film Critics' Awards for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress (Keaton), and Best Screenplay, 1977.



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* * *

In Annie Hall Woody Allen finally delivered a unified work, one that relied on more than his episodic one-liner format. In the film he brought together many of his past obsessions, among them his love of New York, his lack of affection for L.A., the inability to handle success; but this time, he merged them with an in-depth examination of his feelings about family and relationships. It was as if, after 21 years of Freudian analysis, he finally decided to deal with his neuroses on the screen. Occasionally speaking with a confessional directness that destroys the film's illusion of reality and separates him momentarily from the episodic ramblings of his stream-of-consciousness narrative, he situates the spectator as analyst. Throughout the film the customary Allen episodes are cleverly linked together through memory, with dialogue precipitating flashbacks.

The film opens with a monologue which pays homage to three key individuals: Groucho Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Annie Hall. He pays respects to Groucho, from whom he learned comedy; to Freud, from whom he learned how to deal with his childhood; and to Annie, from whom he learned of both love and despair. At the end of the monologue, he moves from comedy to melancholy as he states: ". . . Annie and I broke up . . . I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind . . . ." Searching for the answer to the breakup, he begins by sifting through the wreckage of his childhood—a Freudian analysis laced with (Groucho) Marxian wit.

With Annie Hall, Allen the director is absorbed with his past, as is Alvy Singer, the character Allen portrays in this film. He uses many strategies to comment on the past, from interjecting himself as Alvy into a scene aurally, to interjecting himself visually. Early on both strategies are situated. Alvy's first childhood memories concern depression and his recurring difficulty of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. These scenes use a voice-over narration by Alvy as if to dispel any notion that he is unable to distinguish between the two as an adult. Immediately, however, he begins a strategy of interjecting himself physically into the past, proving that the inability does indeed exist. In a classroom scene he moves from observing himself as a child to participating in the scene as an adult attempting to clarify his childhood actions to his classmates.

Another key aspect of the film is Allen's ability to remove himself from the on-screen reality. This he achieves in a number of ways, from voice-over commentary and/or subtitles which contradict the on-screen dialogue, to physically stepping out of the scene either to comment on the narrative action or to correct the flow of events. After Annie and Alvy meet for the first time their dialogue is heard on the soundtrack but their real thoughts are shown in subtitles at the bottom of the screen: while Alvy says "The medium enters in as a condition of the art form itself," a subtitle reads "I don't know what I'm saying—she senses I'm shallow." At other points in the film Alvy simple uses voice-over to comment on the ridiculousness of an on-screen event: when the comic who wants Alvy to write his material minces around the office, Alvy, in voice-over comments, "Look at him mincing around, like he thinks he's real cute . . . ." In other scenes he is much more assertive. Unable to bear another moment of academic pretension from a man standing behind him in a theater lobby, he directly addresses the audience: "What do you do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you?" After embarrassing the academic by having Marshall McLuhan step out from behind a marquee to say: "How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing," Alvy turns to the camera once again and states: "Boy if life were only like this!"

At the film's end Alvy is writing a play about his breakup with Annie. Where in Manhattan the book he is writing becomes the film we are seeing, here the play he is writing becomes, in retrospect, the film we've just seen. In this film Allen stretched the limits of his narrative technique by developing strategies for showing how the past and present interact in life and art as well as analysis. The film succeeded beyond any of Allen's earlier work, brought new life to the romantic comedy genre, gave American audiences a new leading lady, Diane Keaton, and fashion designers a new look to market.

—Doug Tomlinson