Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditzy Annie Hall.
Annie Hall is one of those films that always has me torn. On one hand, the film stars Woody Allen, who also wrote and directed the film, and we all know how I feel about him. On the other hand, it’s a film that I loved the first time I saw it, it’s a film that I own, and it’s a film that I do still enjoy today. It took a lot for me to admit that upon this viewing, but it’s the truth.
Separating Woody Allen from his character of Alvy Singer is one of the hardest things to do with this film. In fact, separating the art from the artist at all with Annie Hall is difficult simply because so much of Allen is in this film. And, in true Allen fashion, there is some very questionable dialogue, from equating politicians to child molestors to talk of a “colored woman” to several times disregarding consent. Luckily, the women in this film can stand their ground, and all those women recognize, at some point, that Alvy is not a great person. He’s got a lot of personal stuff to work on. He’s neurotic, he’s controlling, and he’s obsessive. He’s been in therapy for 12 years and hasn’t seemed to make much progress because of his own doing. Alvy continuously reduces his relationship with Annie to sex. He’s upset that she needs marijuana to have sex. He doesn’t like it, even though it helps her. He’s incredibly selfish, which is ultimately what leads to every breakup he has with a woman, including Annie.
Speaking of Annie, Diane Keaton’s performance as the titular character is wonderful. Although, I will say that I don’t think it’s fair that she’s often described as “ditzy”. If anything, she’s scattered, as evidenced by the way she lives and the way she speaks. But she is in no way dumb or ditzy.
As I stated above, it took a lot for me to admit that I still liked this film, in spite of Woody Allen being all over it. My enjoyment of this film really comes down to the filmmaking techniques used. There are some true moments of brilliance in Annie Hall. Besides all the framing being spot on, two scenes come to my mind. The first scene is when Annie separates herself from her body as she and Alvy are about to have sex. Alvy persuades Annie to not smoke marijuana before they have sex, solely because he’s a selfish prick and does not like it. Annie states that she needs it to be able to enjoy the experience, but ultimately gives in. Her soul, or personality as it were, separates from her physical body and sits down in a chair next to the bed, showing that Alvy has her body but her mind is wandering. It is a genius visual.
The other scene that comes to mind as an example of some excellent filmmaking is towards the end of the film, where Alvy hits several cars with his. That scene is intercut with footage from earlier in the film of Alvy as a child on the bumper cars, where he had spoken about that being his way of getting out aggression. It is creates a perfectly composed moment.
Now, do I think that 1977’s Annie Hall should be on the American Film Institute’s “100 Greatest Films over 100 Years” list? That’s a harder question to answer. If I’m looking at it from solely a filmmaking point of view, then yes, 100% it deserves to be on this list. At the same time, I want to wipe Woody Allen out of the world’s consciousness, especially because his films just became more and more telling. I mean, just watch Manhattan and pay attention to the casting choices in all his more recent films. That’ll tell you all you need to know. But, seeing as I cannot do that, Annie Hall will continue to be the only Woody Allen film I own and it will continue to be one watched only every so often.