Saturday, February 14

Blind Spot: Annie Hall

I think most people consider Annie Hall to be Woody Allen’s masterpiece, among other films. This is certainly one of the films to come in mind when talking about the famed director. Do I consider it to be a masterpiece? There is some brilliance hidden in the form of the film, but as a whole I was not impressed. It was a solid, well put together film, but I haven’t felt so detached from the art as I did with Annie Hall. The film had me split into two, appreciating the technicality of the film, while leaving me disenchanted with its content and overall impact.

Annie Hall simply chronicles the relationship Alvy Singer had with Annie Hall, using a different structure of storytelling as he proceeded. He would jump into the past, telling his life story and past relationships, often breaking the fourth wall with the audience and sometimes with the characters of the film. He told the story of their ups and downs as a couple, noting the differences between the two as the relationship progressed. 

Allen pictures relationships as it is: they’re not perfect. There are happy times, and there are times where you’re both just frustrated at each other and in need of a change in scenery. He doesn’t try to get away with anything using grand gestures, or romantic scenes, but rather roots the story in everyday, normal people life. The characters don’t talk about anything prolific or significant, but it’s the manner of conversation, or the topics they end up talking about that provides fuel to the film. In the end, it turns to be a character study, particularly the personalities of Alvy Singer and Annie Hall. 

In terms of technical aspect, the film is well made. The writing definitely did all the talking, and there really wasn’t a dull moment in the film even if it didn’t have those grand moments, or heated, passionate scenes. It was rooted in reality, and it’s what makes the brilliance of the film. It relied on creative storytelling, with Alvy Singer occasionally stepping out of his own story to converse with the audience or strangers about the relationship. It wasn’t the content itself that made it great, it was the manner of conveying the content that mattered. 

I guess the disillusionment with the characters is part of the film’s charm. I could not get attached to the idea of Alvy Singer and Annie Hall, both as a couple and as people. They’re both as real as it gets; they’re not written to be quirky, they’re written to embody actual people. I’ve found Alvy Singer to be an insufferable person, always deeming his opinion to be the absolute truth. He’s always looking for the right kind of girl - he wants someone to be sexually available and to be intellectual and witty, but doesn’t want it to be too much. Which is why even if he was so confident that his relationship with Annie was going to work, based on his traits alone it was not. He’s trying to closet Annie to be someone he wants her to be - sexually available when he wants her to be, and an intellectual to converse with, but not too intelligent that her knowledge encompasses his. Annie seems to be a creative soul who doesn’t know what she wants so she allows herself to be encapsulated and yet yearns for her independence. It was hard to care for any of them, which I think also has a good side because you’re able to rifle through their relationship without being inclined to take a side. Performance-wise, I think both were naturals that they don’t seem to be acting. 

The reason why I’m not giving this a perfect score is because I feel so detached to it that I don’t really care what happens to the characters. Film has always given the notion that it doesn’t paint reality so accurately, and those who do that still provide pieces of their characters or writing, or editing, or any piece that will allow the audience to feel anything about it. While the detachment gives great points to the film, it does make it seem robotic, and without charm or charisma.

Final word: I would definitely recommend this film for its style, but if you’re looking for any attachment, wonder, whatsoever, this might not be the film for you.

Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Director: Woody Allen
Year: 1977

17 comments:

  1. Great review! As a hater of 99% of Allen's films, this is the one that gets recommended to me the most. I've see bits and pieces of it, but it doesn't seem to do much, so I definitely believe you when you felt disenchanted.

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    1. Part of the movie experience is being able to connect to the characters, or at least care for the outcome of the character. Sadly, this does neither, though in other aspects, this was a well made film.

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  2. I know exactly what you mean with this film! As a former film academic, I was told that by studying film "I would never be able to watch film in the same way again" which is true, but they meant that I would never be able to get sutured into a film in the same way I used to, like I had lost my ignorance because I'd focus too much on film form.
    But for most films, the films that are made for you to feel empathetic towards the characters, I can absolutely get sucked in. But this film absolutely does not want you to get sucked in, but I don't necessarily think that's bad, I'm not sure that it's a trait that all films must be judged upon. Though, of course, if the detachment made it less entertaining for you then of course that's definitely not a good thing!
    Coincidentally I watched this film yesterday because it's supposed to be a romantic comedy, and after watching When Harry Met Sally, I felt like watching a New York based film, and I thought it had lovely quirk and charm and a lot of creativity, though you can definitely feel the narcissistic "woodyness" and it's a bit too strong for me!

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    1. I have to agree with you on the "woodyness" of the film. Partly why I'm not enchanted with the characters is that the character of Alvy Singer does not sound like a caricature of the person, but rather the person itself who just changed his name for creative purposes. I wasn't wowed by it because I had a distinct feeling that I was already meeting him through the character, and did not like my impression of him.

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  3. Interesting that you didn't connect with the characters. My connection with them was a strong point. Their imperfections drew me into the movie. Two people with not always realistic expectations of each other trying to carry on a relationship feels endlessly genuine. It kept me engaged even though their relationship seems doomed from the start. Glad you finally got to see it and that you did enjoy it, even if you didn't love it.

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    1. The characters were grounded in realism, and the writing does speak for itself. The depth of the content was there, but it was the characters themselves that I didn't care for, so I didn't feel any connection with them.

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  4. Just like Wendell Ottley, I feel connected with the characters for their imperfection. I also see a bit of myself in Allen because both us are awkward geeks, haha.

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  5. I only saw Annie Hall for the first time a couple of years ago, and I was impressed. It was the first time I really "got" Woody Allen as an actor. I guess I was so surprised by how much it played with form and narrative style, and that did draw me in. I suppose there is a bit of a remove from the character of Annie, but I think that might have been intentional. Great review!

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    1. The style of the film was great, I loved the technical and creative aspect of it.

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  6. I am so attached to this movie it's ridiculous. The insecurities and neuroses of Woody Allen's Alvy character are just so real and relatable to me. I also love Diane Keaton here as the title character. This is one of my favorite movies of all-time and one of the most interesting Best Picture winners, for me. Funny how movies work differently for different people. Nice write-up!

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    1. Looking at the other aspects, Annie Hall is a solid, well put together film, but despite the characters being rooted in reality, sadly the characters did not speak to me and felt detached most of the time.

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  7. You raise an interesting point when it comes to romantic comedies; do we cling to the rom-coms that we do not because of the stories we tell, but instead because of the people they are portraying? For instance, do we love WHEN HARRY MET SALLY less for what it says about men and women being friends and more because we actually *like* Harry and Sally?

    Lots to like in this post, and glad to see you liked AH to the extent you did. From my experience, it was a film that grew in my eyes the more I revisited it, so think about revisiting it sometime. Maybe when you do you'll like Alvy and Annie more!

    "...we keep going through it, because most of us...need the eggs."

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  8. I'm 'sort of' with you on this. It's not his masterpiece, as so many try and claim. It's a very well made film, but his work through the mid-80's was much stronger and said so much more.

    Love the honest review!

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  9. I think there are a few issues happening here. The first is probably all the acclaim for Annie Hall, which is a pretty quiet film. I also agree that Alvy is self-centered and not a character we really want to root for; that's pretty common with Allen's leads. Even so, what draws me to Annie Hall is the wit and dialogue. It's really a matter of personal taste with Allen's style, though. The detachment you're feeling with these characters is totally valid and not uncommon when dealing with his work. Interesting take!

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  10. I've never quite liked Woody Allen's movies, but I think this one is his best. So... I can feel your points and your frank review. Nice catch!

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