11 January 2012

6. ANNIE HALL





Three things come to mind when thinking about ANNIE HALL:

1) The unity of theme in the movie.

The working title of the film was ANHEDONIA, the inability to experience pleasure. Everything in this film, from the overall arc of the two main characters down to individual lines. Allen's character is miserable, and spends his romantic relationships trying to fill that hole. He never succeeds, but comes to terms with it. Annie Hall herself is similarly neurotic, but she is able to improve and begin to come to terms with herself and experience pleasure. Her increasing comfort with herself and self-actualization becomes serious conflict with Alvy. Finally, Allen is smart to create an opposite character as his best friend. Rob is Alvy's contrast, living only for pleasure, and doing so without regret.

2) The use of set-ups and pay-offs.

Set-ups and pay-offs are some of the most important and underrated script techniques. Allen uses this beautifully, most notably in the two lobster cooking scenes. In the first, Allen and Annie are at the beach house, having a great time bonding while putting live lobsters in pots. Later, when Allen is with a new woman, he tries to recreate this sense of fun, but the outcome is decidedly different and results in a disaster.
Another example, less poignant and more comedic, is Christopher Walken revealing his fantasy about crashing a car on purpose. We then cut to Allen in the car with Walken driving, Allen white knuckled. You can see the sequence below in its entirety:



3) The playfulness of the film's bending of film grammar.

Like PULP FICTION, this film bends the language of film in a way that conveys sheer joy from the filmmaker. The ways are myriad:

* Non-linear structure, cutting between Alvy's different relationships, starting in the middle of Alvy and Annie's relationship and doubling back.
* Breaking the fourth wall, Allen addressing the audience directly as a framing technique at the head and tail of the film.
* Use of fantasy, when Allen brings in Marshall McLuhen to argue a point for him, or when Annie floats out of her body to look for art supplies, or incorporating an animated sequence ripping off SNOW WHITE.
* Split-screens, to compare and contrast Alvy's rambunctious family with Annie's staid family.

I have a lot of problems with Woody Allen's work, but there's no doubt that this movie is a masterpiece.

19 Comments:

Anonymous Dean said...

You also see the lobster photographs that Annie took hanging on the wall later in the movie

http://s3.amazonaws.com/data.tumblr.com/tumblr_lx00cfSJmN1qz5otxo1_1280.png?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ6IHWSU3BX3X7X3Q&Expires=1326411908&Signature=du5EFkKDZVvWDpWykIxjTqmBzRc%3D

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