Monday, March 16, 2015

CANON OF FILM: "ANNIE HALL"

ANNIE HALL (1977)

Director: Woody Allen
Screenplay: Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman



“I would never join a club that would want me as a member.”
                                                            ----Groucho Marx

At the beginning of movie, Alvy Singer tells us that joke saying that it describe his life in terms of relationships; by the end of "Annie Hall", Woody Allen's greatest achievement, we agree with him. Of course, Alvy Singer, like all Allen characters is basically a slight variation of Woody Allen himself. He's a divorced New York-based stand-up comic who used to work in television who might be a little eccentric. Every time I rewatch the film, I start to analyze my love life and begin to feel that, maybe I have the same problems as Alvy/Woody. I'm about as likely to break up with a perfectly fine individual over the 2nd Gun Theory of the Kennedy assassination as he is. I talk about Bergman and Fellini as though everybody knows automatically who they are, and get frustrated and contemptuous when people don't know what they're talking about. There's a great scene in a movie theater where a guy behind Allen is loudly talkingabout Fellini and when he switches to Marshall McLuhan, Allen has had enough and produces Marshall McLuhan from behind a wall to argue with the guy. "Don't you wish you could do this in real life?" (Yes, yes we do.)
           
Anyway, as Woody Allen did in that scene, I got distracted. He gets distracted in many of his films, and in Annie Hall, he can chase after runaway lobsters and hit on a cute lounge singer who dresses in a pant suit and tie to a tennis match right on cue. There could be a bug as big as a Buick in the bathroom, and he could talk about how etymology is a fast-growing field. Annie (Oscar-winner Diane Keaton, playing a role loosely based on her [Keaton's , the only person in the film who can keep up with him, knows this means that he doesn’t want to move in, and besides, she could always check the subtitles to see what he really means to say.
           
If I’m making this film seem like a disjointed analog of thoughts and moments, well it actually kind is. This was originally a murder mystery comedy, with the Annie Hall character and relationship being a subplot, but in the editing room, all that was thrown away and somehow they found a 95-minute romantic comedy that won the Oscar for Best Picture, as well as two Oscars for Allen, and his only one for Directing. (The film didn’t even get an Oscar nomination for Editing.) The murder mystery plot would be reworked by Allen years later and turn into "Manhattan Murder Mystery". It's actually easy to see that the movie is mostly this disjointed cobbling together of thoughts and ideas but it's so quick and funny most people simply overlook it. Maybe it's because a relationship when looking back, especially a failed one, is mostly an episodic quagmire of scenes, or maybe it's so good that, it doesn't matter that it looks feels and really kinda was just thrown together. It breaks the 4th wall, it has an animation sequence, Woody invades his own childhood flashback and kids are talking like adults in them, this was pure anarchy on screen, even as Mel Brooks was creating the best comedic films of the era, "Annie Hall" when you look at it, is pure abandonment. People are confused, for some reason now, why it beat out "Star Wars" for Best Picture, and earned Allen two of his four Oscars, including his only win for Directing, every romantic-comedy in film and television since, owes a debt to "Annie Hall".

On the other hand, despite all this, you'll notice that the movie is little action, and mostly just people talking. Taking about life, talking about sex, talking during sex… For Woody Allen, he can’t be happy unless he can talk about how depressing everything in life is, no matter how happy he is. He knows he can complain more when the happiness ends. To have your life undone is one thing, to consciously know you’re the undoing it, and know one has the ability to stop, but the unwillingness, is another. Maybe it is abandonment but it's also pure mental masturbation, and we get in our own way sometimes.  Oh well. La-de-da, la-de-da.

“Don’t knock masturbation, it’s sex with someone I love.”
                                                                             ----Woody Allen
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