Annie Hall (1977)
written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman
directed by Woody Allen
Alright, I’ll come right out and say it. For years I’ve been hearing that Annie Hall is Woody Allen’s undisputed masterpiece. But everyone who believes so is wrong.
I know this will draw the ire of many Woody fans, but hey, Woody himself agrees with me. I looked it up:
“When Annie Hall started out, that film was not supposed to be what I wound up with. The film was supposed to be what happens in a guy’s mind, and you were supposed to see a stream of consciousness that was mine, and I did the film and it was completely incoherent. Nobody understood anything that went on. The relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about. That was one small part of another big canvas that I had. In the end, I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton, and that relationship, so I was quite disappointed in that movie, as I was with other films of mine that were very popular. So, you’re asking the wrong person. You see the film and you draw your conclusion from it. To me, it’s always less than the masterpiece I had been certain I was destined to make.” *
There, I don’t feel so bad now.
Annie Hall‘s main problem is, as the director so astutely remarks, the core romance between Alvy Singer (Allen) and the flighty title character (Diane Keaton). While I could certainly see them as oddball friends, their love story is devoid of sparks. And that’s a problem for a film that’s supposedly a romantic comedy. As the picture progresses and Alvy loses Annie, gets her back, then loses her again, it becomes more and more apparent that Annie Hall is just trying too hard to be something it’s not. Now we know why.
But as with all Allen films, there are things that do work nicely, such as the neurotic ruminations on existence and relationships, the gorgeous New York City cinematography, and the sly asides to the audience as characters break the fourth wall. There’s also a hilarious scene where Alvy tries cocaine for the first time. So I don’t know, I guess I have mixed feelings about it. Damn you, Woody.
Next up will be Manhattan, another Allen film widely lauded as a classic. We’ll see.
Carlos I. Cuevas
* Woody Allen being interviewed by Eric Eisenberg for Cinemablend in 2012.