This was film released in 1977 and was Woody Allen's first successful attempt at making a more thoughtful type of comedy film. It charts the fabulously funny relationship of Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). It reveals Allen's neuroses and wonderfully provides a thoughtful analytical view of human relationships. It won 4 oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Woody Allen), Best Screenplay (Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman) and Best Actress (Diane Keaton). On the night of the awards ceremony Allen was in Michael's Pub in New York, playing his clarinet. A testament to his temperament.
The first draft was written in just 4 days. With this in hand Allen asked United Pictures for $4 million. One could see a clear influence of Federico Fellini's 8 and a half on the early versions. It, like Annie Hall was made at a pivotal career turning point. Still there were great changes made to this draft and most of fantasy scenes were left out of the final version. A notable exclusion was Alvy's home being sited under a rollercoaster!
He got the idea of a silent credits at the opening from "The Front" . With the use of the Godfather films' cameraman Gordon Willis, one could also see the influence of Francis Ford Coppola's use of flashbacks. He filmed in three different styles: hot golden light for California, grey and overcast for Manhattan and forties, Hollywood glossy for the dream sequences. But these distinctions were largely lost when it came to the editing stage. The film was Allen's first to directly draw on his own life. Initially, Diane Keaton's charater was to have been a smart New York journalist to avoid people linking this to their previous relationship together. But late on he decided to change this and Keaton acted out herself complete with mismatched clothes and disjointed conversation. Keaton's father says Annie Hall is 85% true even to the point of Alvy's positive influence on Annie. The film bears a striking resemblence to the reality as Keaton herself admitted.
The film took 10 months to film and the original cut was 2 and a half hours long. It was sprawling and contained material for more than one film as was shown by parts appearing in Radio Days (although reshot), Deconstructing Harry, and Manhattan. But with some fine editing the result became stunning.
As is usual with Allen films it is relatively simple and not really the lynchpin of the film. Annie Hall is brilliantly weaved and brought together by the end. But what stays with the viewer is the joy and nostalgia of the film. It has so many fine moments, from Annie calling Alvy when he's in bed with another girl to ask him to kill a spider for her to the scene with her parents who Alvy believes to be classic Jew haters. The beginning of the film reveals a reflective Alvy looking back at his relationship with Annie:
"I keep sifting through the pieces of the relationship through my mind, and examining my life and trying to figure out where did the screw up come." (Alvy in Annie Hall)
By the end of the film his friends are drawn to California and Alvy is left feeling they have in some sense been corrupted. Allen uses Lacey (Paul Simon
) as a symbol of the degraded nature of Californian life. He left him to create his own lines, asking only that he used the word mellow (a term Allen hated). In the film Alvy responds to Lacey:
I don't think I could take a mellow evening, 'cause I don't respond well to mellow. You know, I have a tendency to, if I get too mellow, I ripen and then I rot."
contains various other attacks such as on his parents
and his old school
. But by the end of the film with all the happiness, sadness and philosophising coming to an end Alvy is able to reach some form of resolution.
"I thought of this old joke, you know, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says: "Doc, my brother is crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." The Doctor says "well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well I guess this is how I pretty much feel about relationships. You know they're totally irrational and absurd and... but, I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs."
It's a truly great film. One that deserves to be watched. It's also ideal for helping you realise that putting things in perspective really helps! Woody Allen successfully gives an insight into his relationship with Diane Keaton and it is this personal essence that drives the film on. You really feel like you're experiencing life with Allen and it is marvellous to watch his mind work.