Thursday, April 25, 2013

David's Top Ten - #10 - Annie Hall (Allen, 1977)

We also have this poster in our home!

10.  Annie Hall - Woody Allen, 1977

            To many of my older, conservative suburban friends, Woody Allen is “that guy who married his daughter.”  To me, he is the thoughtful and eccentric filmmaker behind the finest romantic comedy ever produced (who happened to also marry his ex-wife's adopted daughter). 
            What I find most interesting about Annie Hall, along with his other films from the period, is that Allen seems to be writing from an innate self-awareness, both recognizing and stubbornly grasping his flaws.  This may make him loathsome to some in the real world, but it makes for great cinema.  Throughout the film, Allen’s dry wit and honesty both lambast and celebrate contemporary romantic entanglements.  He dares to argue that loneliness is an inherent symptom of his own urban-American culture, while also recognizing that romantic drama is a primary well from which many people draw meaning.  Impressively, he also shows the reserve to avoid convenient resolutions, providing no easy answers to this modern quandary.
            Yet, this alone is not what makes Annie Hall a great film.   Rather, this thematic base partnered with Allen's influential cinematic innovations elevate the material.  Not just a film with humble insight and honest frustrations, it is also a thrilling cinematic experience.  Whether in breaking the third wall, injecting animation, crosscutting amusing flashbacks, or cleverly utilizing voice-over, Allen never relies on the convenience of genre tropes or filmic shortcuts.  Its impact on cinema is widely felt in indie comedies even today, and will continue to be felt for many years to come.  Oh, and I should also mention its astute observations provide some of the funniest film moments to date.  A true masterwork.

Chelsea's Response:

            You showed me Annie Hall about six years ago, when we first started dating.  I’m so glad you did.  It’s a wonderful film that daringly explores the neuroses of relationships.  Its intensive meditation is summed up well in the following exchange from the film:
Diane Keaton's iconic style in the film.
Alvy (Allen): Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
Female street stranger: Yeah.
Alvy: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
Female street stranger: Uh, I'm very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Male street stranger: And I'm exactly the same way.
Alvy: I see. Wow. That's very interesting. So you've managed to work out something?

            It’s one of my favorite short scenes in all of cinema.  Throughout, Allen and Keaton both provide impressive comedic performances as well.  As you do, I love how this film playfully employs genre and the language of film, providing an early (and never improved) blueprint for the indie rom-coms of today.  (You can sense its huge impact on, for example, When Harry Met Sally or 500 Days of Summer, and many more.)  You summed it up well – a great film.

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