Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Annie Hall (1977)

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For those who have never seen a Woody Allen movie, the door to his unique-brand of cinema should be Annie Hall, his 1977 romantic comedy and Best Picture winner. Annie Hall may be best viewed as a virgin to Allen's work, so that all of his idiosyncrasies and quirks as an actor, writer, and director can be experienced in a raw, to-the-point, finely crafted film. Allen is not a great actor, but the character he created for himself, Alvy Singer, is a great character, and only Allen could play him. Neurotic, witty, pessimistic, and bitingly sarcastic, Singer is a stand-up comedian that meets and falls in love with the young Annie Hall played by Diane Keaton. Hall is a simple yet talented girl that sharply contrasts with Singer who is beyond complicated. Keaton won the Best Actress award for Hall in 1977, and her performance is subtle and elegant, but not phenomenal. Despite the lack of mesmerizing performances to draw the audience to the characters, the perfect script and timeless dialogue produce effortlessly real characters. To add to the feeling that the audience is sitting in on real life, Allen adds abrupt asides where Singer speaks directly to the camera and absurd situations the scene breaks and Singer approaches extras to ask them a question or the topic of a random conversation happens to appear in the room. Singer's cynicism and references will seem over-the-top and over-the-head of some viewers, and some of the lines and scenes are a bit indulgent, but Allen clearly understands the beauty and pain of the human relationship, and explores it in a way that is clearly distinct in film history. The opening and closing passages, spoken to the camera and in voice-over by Singer, are perfect book-ends to the perfect romantic comedy. The romantic comedy has been beaten to death in the 30+ years since 1977, leaving little relevance behind. But with Annie Hall, Woody Allen delivered an enduring blend of intelligent, sharp humor and thoughtful meditations on how essential and absurd relationships are.

Good for: Allen fans, fans of romantic comedies, a date

Bad for: those bored with art-films

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