|Directed by||Woody Allen|
|Produced by||Charles H. Joffe|
|Written by||Woody Allen
|Editing by||Ralph Rosenblum|
|Distributed by||United Artists|
|Running time||93 minutes|
Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen from a screenplay he co-wrote with Marshall Brickman. The director co-stars as Alvy Singer, who tries to figure out the reasons for the failure of his relationship with the film's eponymous female lead, played by Diane Keaton. Allen has described the film as "a major turning point", which, unlike the farces and comedies that were his work to that point, introduced a level of seriousness where, he says, he "had the courage to abandon ... just clowning around and the safety of complete broad comedy. I said to myself, 'I think I will try and make some deeper film and not be as funny in the same way. And maybe there will be other values that will emerge, that will be interesting or nourishing for the audience.'"
The film was produced by Allen's veteran manager, Charles H. Joffe, and met with widespread critical acclaim. Along with the 1977 Academy Award for Best Picture, Annie Hall won Oscars in three other categories: two for Allen (Best Director and, with Brickman, Best Original Screenplay), and Keaton for Best Actress. Its North American box office receipts of $38,251,425 are fourth-best in the director's oeuvre when not adjusted for inflation. Often listed among the greatest film comedies, it ranks 31st on AFI's list of the top feature films in American cinema, fourth on their list of top comedy films and number 28 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies." Film critic Roger Ebert called it "just about everyone's favorite Woody Allen movie".
The comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) is trying to understand why his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) ended a year ago. Growing up in New York, he vexed his mother with impossible questions about the emptiness of existence, but he was precocious about his innocent sexual curiosity.
Annie and Alvy get into an argument while waiting in a theater queue to watch The Sorrow and the Pity, during which another man loudly misinterprets the work of Marshall McLuhan; McLuhan himself steps in to correct the mistake. That night, Annie shows no interest in having sex with Alvy. Instead, they discuss his first wife (Carol Kane), with whom there was little sexual pleasure. His second marriage was to a New York intellectual, but their sexual relationship was not enjoyable.
With Annie, it is different. The two of them have fun making a meal of boiled lobster together. Alvy mocks the unusual men with whom Annie had been involved.
They met on the tennis court. After the game, awkward small talk led her to offer him first a ride up town and then a glass of wine on her balcony. There, what seemed a mild exchange of trivial personal data is revealed in "mental subtitles" as an escalating flirtation. Their first date follows Annie's singing audition for a night club ("It Had to be You"). He suggests they kiss first, to get it out of the way. After their lovemaking that night, Alvy is "a wreck," while she relaxes with a joint.
Soon Annie admits she loves him, while he buys her books on death and says that his feelings for her are more than just love. When she moves in with him, things get very tense. Alvy feels strange when they visit her family in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, for Easter. He claims to have never felt more Jewish than with her "Jew-hating" grandmother, and his imagined conversation between their two families reveals a gulf in style, substance, and background. Finding her arm in arm with one of her college professors, Alvy argues with Annie whether this is the "flexibility" they had discussed. They eventually break up, and he searches for the truth of relationships, asking strangers on the street about the nature of love, questioning his formative years, until he casts himself in Snow White opposite Annie’s Evil Queen.
Alvy returns to dating, but the effort is marred by neurosis, bad sex, and finally an interruption from Annie, who insists he come over immediately. It turns out she needs him to kill a spider. A reconciliation follows, coupled with a vow to stay together come what may. However, their separate discussions with their therapists make it evident there is an unspoken divide. When Alvy accepts an offer to present an award on television, they fly out to Los Angeles, with Alvy's friend, Rob (Tony Roberts). However, on the return trip, they agree that their relationship is not working. After losing her to her record producer, Tony Lacey (Paul Simon), he unsuccessfully tries rekindling the flame with a marriage proposal. Back in New York, he stages a play of their relationship but changes the ending: now she accepts.
The last meeting for them is a wistful coda on New York's Upper West Side, when they have both moved on to someone new. Alvy’s voice returns with a summation: love is essential, especially if it is neurotic. Annie torches "Seems Like Old Times" and the credits roll.
Several references in the film to Allen's own life have invited speculation that it is autobiographical. Both Alvy and Allen were comedians. His birthday appears on the blackboard in a school scene, certain features of his childhood are found in Alvy Singer's, Allen went to New York University and so did Alvy. Diane Keaton's real surname is "Hall" and "Annie" was her nickname, and she and Allen were once romantically involved. However, Allen is quick to dispel these suggestions. "The stuff that people insist is autobiographical is almost invariably not," Allen said. "It's so exaggerated that it's virtually meaningless to the people upon whom these little nuances are based. People got it into their heads that Annie Hall was autobiographical, and I couldn't convince them it wasn't". Contrary to various interviewers and commentators, he says, Alvy is not the character that is closest to himself; he identified more with the mother (Eve, played by Geraldine Page) in his next film, Interiors. Despite this, Keaton has stated that the relationship between Alvy and Annie was partly based on her relationship with the director.
The role of Annie Hall was written specifically for Keaton, who had worked with Allen on Play it Again, Sam, Sleeper and Love and Death. She considered the character an "affable version" of herself—both were "semi-articulate, dreamed of being a singer and suffered from insecurity"—and was surprised to win an Oscar for her performance. The film also marks the second film collaboration between Allen and Tony Roberts, their previous project being Play It Again, Sam.
Federico Fellini was Allen's first choice to appear in the cinema lobby scene because his films were under discussion, but Allen chose cultural academic Marshall McLuhan after both Fellini and Luis Buñuel declined the cameo.
Some cast members, Baxter claims, were aggrieved at Allen's treatment of them. The director "acted coldly" towards McLuhan, who had to return from Canada for reshooting, and Mordecai Lawner, who played Alvy's father, claimed that Allen never spoke to him. However, during the production, Allen began a two-year relationship with Stacey Nelkin, who appears in a single scene.
- Woody Allen - Alvy "Max" Singer
- Diane Keaton - Annie Hall
- Tony Roberts - Rob
- Carol Kane - Allison Portchnik
- Paul Simon - Tony Lacey
- Shelley Duvall - Pam
- Christopher Walken - Duane Hall
- Colleen Dewhurst - Mrs. Hall
- Donald Symington - Mr. Hall
- Janet Margolin - Robin
- Joan Newman - Mrs. Singer
- Marshall McLuhan - Himself
The idea for what would become Annie Hall was developed as Allen walked around New York with co-writer Marshall Brickman. The pair discussed the project on alternate days, sometimes becoming frustrated and rejecting the idea. Allen wrote a first draft of a screenplay within a four-day period, sending it to Brickman to make alterations. According to Brickman, this draft centered on a man in his forties, someone whose life consisted "of several strands. One was a relationship with a young woman, another was a concern about the banality of life we all live, and a third an obsession with proving himself and testing himself to find out what kind of character he had."
Allen himself turned forty in 1975. Brickman suggests that "advancing age" and "worries about his death" had influenced Allen's philosophical, personal approach to complement his "commercial side". Allen said that he had decided to "sacrifice some of the laughs for a story about human beings". He was also influenced by Federico Fellini's 1963 comedy-drama 8½, which the Italian director had created at a similar turning point, and for both of which their director's psychoanalysis play a part. The pair sent the screenplay back and forth between them until they were ready to ask United Artists for $4 million.
Many elements from the early drafts did not survive. It was originally a drama centered on a murder mystery with a comic and romantic subplot. According to Allen, the murder occurred after a scene that remains in the film, the sequence in which Annie and Alvy miss the Ingmar Bergman film Face to Face. Although they decided to drop the murder plot, Allen and Brickman made a murder mystery many years later: 1993's Manhattan Murder Mystery, also starring Diane Keaton. The draft that Allen presented to the film's editor, Ralph Rosenblum, concluded with the words, "ending to be shot." It was "like a first draft of a novel ... from which two or three films could possibly be assembled," Rosenblum says.
Allen's working title for the film was "Anhedonia", a term for the inability to experience pleasure. However, United Artists considered this unmarketable, as were Brickman's suggested alternatives: "It Had to Be Jew", "Rollercoaster Named Desire" and "Me and My Goy". An advertising agency, hired by UA, embraced Allen's choice of an obscure word by suggesting advertising in tabloid newspapers using vague slogans such as "Anhedonia Strikes Cleveland". However, Allen tried several titles over five test screenings, including "Anxiety" and "Alvy and Me", before settling on "Annie Hall".
Principal photography began on 19 May 1976 on the South Fork of Long Island with the scene in which Alvy and Annie boil live lobsters; filming continued periodically for the next ten months. The production deviated from the screenplay. There was nothing written about Alvy's childhood home lying under a roller coaster, but when Allen was scouting locations in Brooklyn with Willis and art director Mel Bourne, he "saw this roller-coaster, and... saw the house under it. And I thought, we have to use this." In a similar vein, there is the incident where Alvy scatters a trove of cocaine with an accidental sneeze: although not in the script, the joke emerged from a rehearsal happenstance and stayed in the movie. In audience testing, this laugh was so big that a re-edit had to add a hold so that the following dialogue was not lost.
Rosenblum's first assembly of the film in 1976 left Brickman disappointed. At two hours and twenty minutes, Annie Hall herself was less prominent, and it dwelt "on issues just touched in passing in the version we know", featuring the "surrealistic and abstract adventures of a neurotic Jewish comedian who was reliving his highly flawed life and in the process satirizing much of our culture,... a visual monologue, a more sophisticated and visual version of Take the Money and Run". Brickman found it "nondramatic and ultimately uninteresting, a kind of cerebral exercise." He suggested a more linear narrative.
Fortunately, the shooting schedule was budgeted for two weeks of post-production photography, so even though the first cut had "some of the free-est, funniest and most sophisticated material that Woody had ever created, and it hurt him to lose it", late 1976 saw three separate shoots for the final segment, two of which appear in some form. One featured Annie Hall taking her new boyfriend to The Sorrow and the Pity, which she had reluctantly seen with Alvy; the other, Alvy's monologue featuring the joke about 'we all need the eggs', was conceived during a cab journey to an early preview.
The title sequence features a black background with white text in the Windsor Light Condensed typeface, a design that Allen would use on his subsequent films and become a trademark of his. Stig Björkman sees some similarity to Ingmar Bergman's simple and consistent title design, although Allen says that his own choice is a cost-saving device.
The film was listed as "A Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe Production", though only Joffe took producer credit and received the Academy Award for Best Picture. Both were Allen's veteran managers and had that credit on all his films from 1969 to 1993.
Very little background music is heard in the film, a departure for Allen influenced by Ingmar Bergman. Diane Keaton performs twice in the jazz club: "It Had to be You" and "Seems Like Old Times" (the latter reprises in voiceover on the closing scene). The other exceptions include a boy's choir "Christmas Medley" played while the characters drive through Los Angeles, the Molto allegro from Mozart's Jupiter Symphony (heard as Annie and Alvy drive through the countryside), Tommy Dorsey's performance of "Sleepy Lagoon", and the anodyne cover of the Savoy Brown song "A Hard Way to Go" playing at a party in the mansion of Paul Simon's character.
Style and technique
Technically, the film marked an advance for the director. He selected Gordon Willis as his cinematographer—for Allen "a very important teacher" and a "technical wizard," saying, "I really count Annie Hall as the first step toward maturity in some way in making films." At the time, it was considered an "odd pairing" by many, Keaton among them, for Willis and Allen to work together. The director was famous for "laugh machines" and hilarious farces, while Willis was known as "the prince of darkness" for work on dramatic films like The Godfather. Despite this, the two became friends during filming and continued the collaboration on several later films, including Zelig, which earned Willis his first Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.
Willis described the production for the film as "relatively easy". He shot in varying styles; "hot golden light for California, grey overcast for Manhattan and a forties Hollywood glossy for... dream sequences", most of which were cut. It was his suggestion which led Allen to film the dual therapy scenes in one set divided by a wall instead of the usual split screen method. He tried long takes, with some shots, unabridged, lasting an entire scene, which, for Ebert, add to the dramatic power of the film: "Few viewers probably notice how much of Annie Hall consists of people talking, simply talking. They walk and talk, sit and talk, go to shrinks, go to lunch, make love and talk, talk to the camera, or launch into inspired monologues like Annie's free-association as she describes her family to Alvy. This speech by Diane Keaton is as close to perfect as such a speech can likely be ... all done in one take of brilliant brinksmanship." He cites a study that calculated the average shot length of Annie Hall to be 14.5 seconds, while other films made in 1977 had an average shot length of 4–7 seconds. Peter Cowie suggests that "Allen breaks up his extended shots with more orthodox cutting back and forth in conversation pieces, so that the forward momentum of the film is sustained."
Other techniques reflect Allen's artistic influences. The main characters' visit to Alvy’s childhood echo Ingmar Bergman's Wild Strawberries and the school scenes are reminiscent of Federico Fellini's later work. The Jewish humor—particularly the character of the oversexed Jewish man—draws on Philip Roth's novel Portnoy's Complaint.
Although the film is not essentially experimental, at several points it undermines the narrative reality. In one famous scene, Allen's character, in line to see a movie with Annie, listens to a man behind him deliver misinformed pontifications on the significance of Fellini and Marshall McLuhan's work. Allen pulls McLuhan himself from just off camera to personally correct the man's errors. Later in the film, when we see Annie and Alvy in their first extended talk, "mental subtitles" convey to the audience the characters' nervous inner doubts. An animated scene—with artwork based on the comic strip Inside Woody Allen—depicts Alvy and Annie in the guise of the Wicked Queen from Snow White.
Although Allen uses each of these techniques only once, the "fourth wall" is broken several other times when characters address the camera directly. In one, Alvy stops several passers-by to ask questions about love, and in another he shrugs off writing a happy ending to his relationship with Annie in his autobiographical first play as forgivable "wish-fulfillment." Allen chose to have Alvy break the fourth wall, he explained, "because I felt many of the people in the audience had the same feelings and the same problems. I wanted to talk to them directly and confront them."
The nature of love is a repeating subject for Allen and co-star Tony Roberts described this film as "the story of everybody who falls in love, and then falls out of love and goes on." Alvy searches for love's purpose through his effort to get over his depression about the demise of his relationship with Annie. Sometimes he sifts through his memories of the relationship, at another point he stops people on the sidewalk, with one woman saying that "It’s never something you do. That’s how people are. Love fades," a suggestion that it was no one's fault, they just grew apart and the end was inevitable. By the end of the film, Alvy accepts this and decides that love is ultimately "irrational and crazy and absurd", but a necessity of life.
Alvy Singer is identified with the stereotypical neurotic Jewish male, and the differences between Alvy and Annie are often related to the perceptions and realities of Jewish identity. Vincent Brook notes that "Alvy dines with the WASP-y Hall family and imagines that they must see him as a Hasidic Jew, complete with payess (ear locks) and a large black hat."
Annie Hall, the film, "is as much a love song to New York City as it is to the character," reflecting Allen's adoration of the island of Manhattan. It was a relationship he explored repeatedly, particularly in films like Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Peter Cowie argues that the film shows "a romanticized view" of the borough, with the camera "linger[ing] on the Upper East Side [... and where] the fear of crime does not trouble its characters." By contrast, California is presented less positively. While Manhattan's movie theaters show classic and foreign films, Los Angeles theaters run less-prestigious fare such as House of Exorcism and Messiah of Evil. Rob's demonstration of adding canned laughter to television demonstrates the "cynical artifice of the medium". New York serves as a symbol of Alvy's personality ("gloomy, claustrophobic, and socially cold, but also an intellectual haven full of nervous energy") while Los Angeles is a symbol of freedom for Annie.
Annie Hall was shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival in March 1977, before its official release on April 20, 1977. The film ultimately earned $38,251,425 in the United States against a $4-million budget, making it the 11th highest-grossing picture of 1977. On raw figures, it currently ranks as Allen's fourth-highest-grossing film, after Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris; when adjusted for inflation, the gross figure of $135,852,600 makes it Allen's biggest box office hit.
Annie Hall met with widespread critical acclaim upon its release. Tim Radford of The Guardian called the film "Allen's most closely focused and daring film to date". The New York Times' Vincent Canby preferred Annie Hall to Allen's second directorial effort, Take the Money and Run, since the former is more "humane" while the latter is more a "cartoon". Several critics have compared the film favorably to Bergman's 1973 film, Scenes from a Marriage, including Joseph McBride in Variety, who found it Allen's "most three-dimensional film to date" with an ambition equal to Bergman's best even as the co-stars become the "contemporary equivalent of... Tracy-Hepburn." More critically, Peter Cowie commented that the film "suffers from its profusion of cultural references and asides".
After more than a quarter century, the film has continued to receive positive reviews. In his 2002 lookback, Roger Ebert noted with surprise that the film had "an instant familiarity" despite its age, and Slant writer Jaime N. Christley found the one-liners "still gut-busting after 35 years". Another Guardian critic, Peter Bradshaw, named it the best comedy film of all time, commenting that "this wonderfully funny, unbearably sad film is a miracle of comic writing and inspired film-making". Empire magazine rated the movie five out of five stars, calling it a "classic". To date, all of the 53 reviews tabulated at Rotten Tomatoes have approved of the film with only one exception, for a score of 98%. Its average rating is 8.8 on a scale of 10.
In his discussion of the film's relation to modernism, Thomas Schatz finds the film an unresolved "examination of the process of human interaction and interpersonal communication" and “immediately establishes [a] self-referential stance” that invites the spectator “to read the narrative as something other than a sequential development toward some transcendent truth”. For him, Alvy "is the victim of a tendency toward overdetermination of meaning -- or in modernist terms 'the tyranny of the signified' -- and his involvement with Annie can be viewed as an attempt to establish a spontaneous, intellectually unencumbered relationship, an attempt which is doomed to failure."
Christopher Knight points out that Annie Hall is framed through Alvy's experiences. "Generally, what we know about Annie and about the relationship comes filtered through Alvy, an intrusive narrator capable of halting the narrative and stepping out from it in order to entreat the audience's interpretative favor." He suggests that because Allen's films blur the protagonist with "past and future protagonists as well as with the director himself", it "makes a difference as to whether we are most responsive to the director's or the character's framing of events". Knight believes Alvy's quest upon meeting Annie is carnal, whereas hers is on an emotional note. Despite the narrative's framing, "the joke is on Alvy."
|1. Best Picture, Charles H. Joffe, Producer|
|2. Best Director, Woody Allen|
|3. Best Actress in a Leading Role, Diane Keaton|
|4. Best Original Screenplay, Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman|
|Golden Globe Awards|
|1. Best Actress– Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, - Diane Keaton|
|1. Best Film|
|2. Best Direction, Woody Allen|
|3. Best Actress, Diane Keaton|
|4. Best Editing, Ralph Rosenblum, Wendy Greene Bricmont|
|5. Best Screenplay, Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman|
Annie Hall won four Oscars at the 50th Academy Awards on April 3, 1978. Producer Charles H. Joffe received the statue for Best Picture, Allen for Best Director and, with Brickman, for Best Original Screenplay, and Keaton for Best Actress. Allen was also nominated for Best Actor. Many had expected Star Wars to win the major awards, including Brickman and Executive Producer Robert Greenhut.
The film was also honored four times at the BAFTA awards. Along with the top award for Best Film, Keaton won for Best Actress, Allen won for Best Direction and Best Original Screenplay alongside Brickman. The film received only one Golden Globe Award, for Best Film Actress in a Musical or Comedy (Diane Keaton). despite nominations for three other awards: Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy), Best Director, and Best Film Actor in a Musical or Comedy (Woody Allen).
In 1992, the United States' Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in its National Film Registry that includes "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" films. It's often mentioned among the greatest comedies of all time. The American Film Institute lists it 31st in American cinema history. Ten years later, they updated the list and ranked the film 35th. In 2000, they named it fourth greatest comedy film in American cinema history. Keaton's performance of "Seems Like Old Times" was ranked 90th on their list of greatest songs included in a film, and her line "La-dee-da, la-dee-da." was named the 55th greatest movie quote. The screenplay was named the sixth greatest screenplay by the Writers Guild of America, West while IGN named it the seventh greatest comedy film of all time. In 2000, readers of Total Film magazine voted it the forty-second greatest comedy film of all time, and the seventh greatest romantic comedy film of all time. Several lists ranking Allen's best films have put Annie Hall among his greatest work.
In June 2008, AFI revealed its 10 Top 10—the best ten films in ten classic American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community and Annie Hall was placed second in the romantic comedy genre. AFI also ranked Annie Hall on multiple other lists. In November 2008, Annie Hall was voted in at No. 68 on Empire magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time. It is also ranked #2 on Rotten Tomatoes' 25 Best Romantic Comedies, second only to The Philadelphia Story. In 2012, the film was listed as the 127th best film of all time by Sight & Sound critics' poll. The film was also named the 132nd best film by the Sight & Sound directors' poll.
Legacy and influence
Although the film received critical acclaim and several awards, Allen himself was disappointed with it, and said in an interview, "When Annie Hall started out, that film was not supposed to be what I wound up with. The film was supposed to be what happens in a guy’s mind.... Nobody understood anything that went on. The relationship between myself and Diane Keaton was all anyone cared about. That was not what I cared about.... In the end, I had to reduce the film to just me and Diane Keaton, and that relationship, so I was quite disappointed in that movie".
He says he has repeatedly declined to make a sequel, admitting in a 1992 interview that for a time he considered it:
|“||I did think once—I'm not going to do it—but I did think once that it would be interesting to see Annie Hall and the guy I played years later. Diane Keaton and I could meet now that we're about twenty years older, and it could be interesting, because we parted, to meet one day and see what our lives have become. But it smacks to me of exploitation.... Sequelism has become an annoying thing. I don't think Francis Coppola should have done Godfather III because Godfather II was quite great. When they make a sequel, it's just a thirst for more money, so I don't like that idea so much.||”|
Costume designer Ruth Morley, working with Diane Keaton, created a look which had an influence on the fashion world during the late-70s, with women adopting the style: layering oversized, mannish blazers over vests, billowy trousers or long skirts, a man's tie, and boots. The look was often referred to as the "Annie Hall look". Some sources suggest that Keaton herself was mainly responsible for the look, and Ralph Lauren has often claimed credit, but only one jacket and 1 tie were purchased from Ralph Lauren for use in the film. Allen recalled that Lauren and Keaton's dress style almost did not end up in the film. "She came in," he recalled in 1992, "and the costume lady on Annie Hall said, 'Tell her not to wear that. She can't wear that. It's so crazy.' And I said, 'Leave her. She's a genius. Let's just leave her alone, let her wear what she wants.'"
Since its release, other romantic comedies have inspired comparison. When Harry Met Sally..., Chasing Amy, (500) Days of Summer and Allen's 2003 film, Anything Else are among them, while film director Rian Johnson said in an interview for the book, The Film That Changed My Life, that Annie Hall inspired him to become a film director.
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- Annie Hall at the Internet Movie Database
- Annie Hall at allmovie
- Annie Hall at the TCM Movie Database
- Annie Hall at Box Office Mojo
- Annie Hall at Rotten Tomatoes