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Woody Allen, you had me at the silent opening titles. Talk about a ground breaking film. For its time this was highly experimental and a little bit arty for the mainstream. Good on the folks at the Academy for selecting this film for Best Picture.
Alvy Singer (Allen) is a nervous Jewish (der) comedian looking for a better way through life and relationships. He marries twice, finding no joy in either relationship. He says (quoting Groucho Marx), “I would never want to belong to any club that would have me for a member.” This defines his relationships. They bubble and then fizz out.
His best shot at a functional relationship is with the quirky nightclub singer, Annie Hall (Keaton). She loves this weird little man, literally gushing over him when they first meet. Their quirky natures seem to click and for a while everything seems rosy. Until Hall gets a recording deal in Los Angeles. From then on things start falling apart.
The genius in this film is not in the love story but how it is told. It all begins with silent opening titles and a monologue with Singer addressing the audience. The fourth wall is constantly being shattered as Allen skilfully mixes reality with fantasy.
He uses strangers on the street to voice the conversations he has in his head. He uses subtitles to express the subtext to the audience and he uses split screens to blend dialogue. Animation is used in a surprising reference to the wicked witch in Snow White and he finds himself and his friends in flashback scenes from his childhood.
This is a film about observing relationships from afar. Singer is constantly commenting on his relationships to each partner, analysing what is going wrong or speaking his thoughts which, in reality, would take the magic out of the moment. I love his one liners like, “Darling I was killing spiders since I was 30” and “Let’s kiss now so it’s not awkward later.”
This is classic Woody Allen. Whether you like him or not this is a fascinating and clever film. It is a writer’s film. You find yourself navigating through the messy thoughts of Allen’s honest and neurotic mind. And it’s a fascinating place.
Annie Hall Trivia: