Annie Hall ★★★★★

“You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’ know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Right, I’m a bigot, but for the left...“

I’ve been trying for the last, I guess twenty hours now to think of a way to describe Annie Hall, and sure, it’s corny, but the best I could up to is seeing the film as a cinematic latte (though maybe it’s because I’ve gone out of my way to watch Woody Allen films in a coffee shop environment…it just feels right?), wonderfully pretty to look at from a surface level and equally wholesome and bursting with warmth to take, yet, just having that bit of extra richness of wit and heart that you can’t really find anywhere else. Though, if we are making beverage comparisons, it may almost be more accurate to use the idea of “the nectar of the gods” because that’s certainly the stuff dripping off every line of dialogue that falls a whimsical mix between the emotionally satisfying referential denseness of a Tarantino (for lack of a better example) and the musical “running in circles” painted by the topical motifs of a Sorkin type.

In essence, it’s pretty much everything that Manhattan wasn’t, stripping back the, let’s be honest sort of unnecessary window dressing found in the intimate beauty of the Gershwin score, the crispness of Willis’ visuals, here curbing his artistic usage down to just a few frames where he busies the screen with grain and primary color in ways very reminiscent of Jackson Pollock, that is when not just the equivalent of one of the man’s paintings imposed over a tender moment, but, more importantly also pulls back the pretentiousness oozing from each image of the picture (another way of putting it is that the film is at least art in comparison, on some level, mostly because it actually acknowledges, not ignores, the idea there is a level of higher art than it), take it as sincerity or not, Annie Hall is more like an anti-climatic mockery of art and culture that’s in the vein of Manhattan, rather than at all resembling it itself.

At its most basic level, more so as to why I think it really is of masterpiece quality, it's because I read the film equally as a cynical deconstruction of fame as it is a romance, taking a look at this society not quite wary enough of who or what it fascinates itself, best seen through what, on first glance, might appear to be one-off gags (that word used because the whole film in a lot of ways operates like a philosophical gag comedy for the purposes of defecating on the modern, contemporary mindsets of the 70s) about pseudo-intellectuals and the pontifications of self-proclaimed “critics” of art, but more so all of society, a society that is also obsessed with giving out awards and unduly patting itself on the back for such things as well. Even take Alvy as an example, who both admits he feigns knowledgeability through a slew of obscure references and the use of half the know dictionary for creating a maze even the audience can struggle to figure out, at times, besides also using these moments as a way of escapism, or stalling, ignorance, etc, from his domestic, sexual, and emotional problems.

Like, while it also may have seemed like just another Allen-ism, because I will admit he writes in what is the equivalent of someone that likes to hear themselves talk, the idea of “mental masturbation” hits so much deeper than I think maybe it was even intended, literally these people use intellectualism, education, once again even critical pontification, as a self-soothing technique to leave reality for a bit and feel more important than they actually are. That’s kind of the same reason everyone is seeing analysts and trying to uncover the hidden secrets of their psyche, they are utterly obsessed, even take Alvy’s neurotic views on the world and anti-semitism, with the idea that they are special and that people, society, drastically care about them in some way, even if that’s a negative way as a depressive, addict, etc.

And then, circling back, we throw on top of all that the idea that this is all framed on the backdrop of an essentially hidden “Star is Born”-esque love story where Alvy slowly fades into obscurity, smaller and smaller venues, never being recognized again after the first thirty minutes, so on and so forth, whilst putting his comedy career on the back burner as he encourages and falls head over heels for Annie. And then she leaves him to chase the bright lights of LA and everything kind of climaxes with Alvy’s arrest where the officer mentions he doesn’t want to hear a life story and doesn’t care who Alvy is to bring things full circle on the deconstruction of fame idea, I mean, that is nothing short of sheer brilliance, and I'm not even touching the part about the rawness and heartbreak such a doomed romance brings on as well.

And stylistically this is also the perfect way to use narrative and stylistic artifice/unconventionalism, hell, the man takes the idea of a fourth wall break and makes it into something that flows within a scene with more efficiency for showing inner thoughts than even narration would, despite such a tool’s frequent association with being cheap and jarring, not to mention that it kind of does the same thing for split-screen and a rapid editing style, that, in my opinion, is oddly enough highly influential on something like 1999’s Magnolia.

Really, I tend to think the only place that Annie Hall can be aptly called overindulgent would be in both structure and performances, on the performance side the physical comedy and dramatic subtly is so well woven I didn’t really mind, but I do get why it could annoy some people, and in terms of structure, yeah, it pissed me off that a film so averse to the typical Woody Allen way of doing things (ironic considering it’s his most well-known work and also the work of his that is literally Woody Allen just playing Woody Allen in an actual story based on the life of Woody Allen) followed suit with Manhattan with a painfully drab last thirty minutes and a bittersweet ending that makes you feel nothing other than relief he finally shut up, so I guess, all that to say while I am not suggesting Annie Hall, despite taking the spot of my favorite film of all time, is a perfect film, and certainly is from a less than perfect creator (yes, surprise, surprise, 2020 is quite the weird time to be first getting into Woody Allen, but I still feel it is a tad unfair that those who have already had decades to digest his work are mainly the ones now chewing him up and spitting him out, and I’m over here first getting to the party mostly wanting to enjoy the work but having all the PC shit to deal with, basically, and this is in a world where he didn’t cancel himself subscribe to the school of creepy ass method acting for some of his terrible Sean Baker-esque characters he would probably take the place of my favorite writer/director, but it just doesn’t feel right given the continued state of ambiguity surrounding the allegations), but it’s such an emotionally raw work, almost better in a broken sense, it’s a film the sum of its shattered pieces, still as pieces, if that makes any sense at all.

I don’t know, I quite get the feeling my relationship with Annie Hall will be passionate, yet short-lived, but, for right now at least, I was inclined to deal with all the side stuff because the work really is that good and the time in my life couldn't be riper for something like this. To paraphrase, I guess you could say I needed the eggs...

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