Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Annie Hall (1977)

Fig 1 - Annie Hall Poster
Directed by and starring Woody Allen, Annie Hall follows the story of two New Yorkers in the 1970's, studying the growth and eventual decline of their relationship. Alvy (Woody Allen) is a neurotic, self-indulgent comedian with two failed marriages behind him, whereas Annie (Diane Keaton) is a quirky 'free spirit' with aspirations of a singing career. When the two meet through mutual friends they hit it off right away, though when their flaws inevitably come to light they struggle to find a way to make things work.

Where the film lacks any conventional 'story-telling', it is elevated by a phenomenal script that manages to keep the narrative flow consistent whilst cutting between the past and present, often outright juxtaposing the two. The viewer is conditioned to rely on fourth-wall breaking segments that allow Alvy to engage with complete strangers in order to vent over his predicaments. From the opening scene it is established that Alvy can communicate directly with the audience, often talking into camera as though commenting on the situation to a close friend. I found the structure of this world, in which everything seemingly revolves around Alvy, to be an endearing alternative to some form of narration and adds to the overall humour of several absurd encounters.

Fig 2 - Annie Hall - Annie and Alvy
In addition, Allen uses various techniques to portray the contrast between action and thought. For instance, one of Annie and Alvy's initial conversations is subtitled with the inner monologue behind what they're actually saying. There is also a scene in which both characters are in separate therapy sessions playing out simultaneously on either side of a divided shot. The experimental approach to it's direction was a clear influence on the production of many romantic comedies to follow, bringing to mind the 'Expectation vs Reality' scene from (500) Days of Summer (2009). In it's non-linear exploration of the flaws and joys of relationships I was also reminded of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), a film I have classified as an all-time favourite for the past ten years.

That said, I think I can also appreciate why someone might find this film 'irritating' as we are essentially viewing through the lens of a relentlessly paranoid figure, whose existential monologues and nihilistic outlook might not always come across as likeable. However, although I didn't exactly 'root' for him, I found the character of Alvy to be a perfectly reasonable vessel through which to examine the downward spiral of the bond between two flawed individuals. Incidentally, Diane Keaton as Annie gives a pretty charming performance, particularly in the beginning of their relationship when she is overtly nervous and excited by her interactions with Alvy. The film also features a whole host of 'literally-just-before-they-were-famous' cameos from the likes of Christopher Walken, Shelley Duvall and Jeff Goldblum, with Sigourney Weaver even cropping up at the end in her very first film role.

Overall I thought the film was a sweet and realistic take on the highs and lows of living in love. For myself, Annie Hall leaves a very good impression on Woody Allen as a director and I look forward to seeing more of his work.


Fig. 1 Annie Hall Poster (1977) From: Annie Hall - Directed by: Woody Allen

Fig. 2 Annie Hall Screenshot (1977) From: Annie Hall - Directed by: Woody Allen


  1. Great Film - I'd also recommend 'Take the Money and Run', 'Sleeper', 'Zelig' , 'Bananas', and 'Radio Days' from Woody Allen's earlier films. They don't always get as much attention as some of his more popular films.

  2. Thanks! I'll definitely be looking into his work at some stage.