US, 1977, 93 minutes, Colour.
Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Janet Margolin, Shelly Duvall, Paul Simon, Coleen Dewhurst.
Directed by Woody Allen.
For most Woody Allen's comedies are an acquired taste but, apparently, more and more people are acquiring the taste. As early as 1972 Allen made it to the cover of "Time" Magazine. He was well-known as comic, writer. But, at that time, he had appeared in 'What's New Pussycat and Casino Royale and begun to write and direct his own films, Take the Money and Run and Bananas. Since 1972 he has made several more films and his reputation has increased both inside and outside America. Allen is a New York Jewish comedian and his comedy and style of humour reflect this.
While he is capable of very funny sight gags and mimicry, he is also an intellectual. He has a delight in words and ideas and a facility in using them seriously as well as incongruously. He is knowledgeable in philosophy and the arts. This may explain his large appeal to university students and to patrons of 'art film houses'. His films are funny, clever, witty and satiric but often pessimistic, especially in the preoccupations about love and friendships and ageing and death. Allen, being of small stature, also provides another variation on 'little man' comedy of pathos about the human condition.
Since 1972 Allen's films (written and directed) have been Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex, Play It Again Sam, (directed by Herbert Ross), Sleeper, Love and Death and Annie Hall. Diane Keaton appeared in the last four and Annie Hall has some autobiographical overtones about Allen's relationship with Diane Keaton. Miss Keaton's performance is another of the reasons for the enthusiastic response to the film and she has won several awards, and so Woody Allen goes autobiographical, partly factual, partly fictional and with the co-operation of his one-time collaborator, Diane Keaton. The result is a humorous/feeling stream of consciousness story of a fortyish little man caught up in emotional crises and the professional world of entertainment. Woody Allen fans might be surprised at the amount of feeling that Allen invests in his much more humanized mini-hero and in the portrayal of the complicated Annie Hall. Excellent character actors form a gallery of interesting portraits surrounding Allen. Advertising rightly calls it 'comedy and a nervous romance'.
1. The achievement of this Woody Allen film? The critical acclaim and popularity? The basic qualities of the film?
2. Audience response to Woody Allen? Woody Allen as a 20th century American comedian, the particular styles of his humour, his verbal and visual humour, cinematic? Philosophical and religious implications of the ordinary and even the banal? The genre of his comedies? The confidential approach taken to the audience, the autobiographical film? His own life as contributing to this film?
3. The relationship between Diane Keaton and Woody Allen? Drawing on real life experience and working together for this story? How authentic and real did it seem? Diane Keaton's style as a comedienne and her embodiment of Annie Hall? How much of the film's success depended on her?
4. The framework of the film in humour: the initial joke about the Jewish ladies complaining about the food and not getting enough of it as an image of life being terrible and one can't get enough of it? The joke about Groucho Marx and people belonging to a club that would accept him as a member? The finale with the joke about the mad brother who thought his brother a chicken but did not want to commit him because he needed the eggs? The moral of these jokes?
5. The visual humour and its success as placed throughout the film e.g. the killing of the spider in the bathroom, the lobsters (and the repetition with the girl hitting with the glove), the driving of Annie, the subtitles over their conversation on the rooftop etc.?
6. Allen's skill with verbal comedy? His facility with words? His ability to draw on philosophy and psychology and literature? The verbal humour about adult education? The discussion about films and Fellini in the queue, the producing of Marshall McLuhan? The mental dialogue of the two when they return in the plane? The satire on Los Angeles? The characterisation of Rob etc.?
7. The effect of the structure of the film: Alvie Singer as Woody Allen and vice versa talking to the audience? Inviting the audience to identify with him and participate in his memories? The psychological structure of shuffling of memories and insights? Of sometimes observing memories, even living within them? The invitation to the audience to understand his encounter with Annie Hall and the effect that it had on both of them? To understand him as a person, to go back into his boyhood, meet his parents and relations, see him at school and the children that were at school with him and what happened to them? To understand what Annie Hall meant by coming into this life? In comparison with his marriages? An invitation to understand his career and his abilities? How involved was the audience in this experience of Alvie Singer?
8. Woody Allen's characterisation of Alvie Singer and the parallels with his own life? The visualizing of his origins, the Coney Island of the Roller coaster, the family? School, and the comments of the teacher, the preoccupations about learning. sexuality? The irony of the children saying what happened to them? His being small,, his turning forty? His ability with his career and people recognising him on the streets? His two wives and his inability to relate well to them? The political overtones of the first, the New Yorker atmosphere of fashionable trends with the second? How was Annie different from both of these and why did he respond to her? The mutual shyness. their inability to communicate. the growing to like one another. love? His helping her with her career and her singing? Their friends, shared tastes? His work with television? His fears and his loneliness? The break-up of the relationship and the effect that it had on him? How well drawn was the character of Alvie Singer? How much insight into a man whose life is yet incomplete, but who has to learn from experience?
9. The portrait of Annie as portrayed by Diane Keaton? As could be gathered from the audience by collating the scattered memories of Alvie? Her background and her origins, WASP? Her family and the way they were portrayed especially in comparison with Alvie's family? His being a Rabbi at their table? The suicidal brother and the trip? Grandma Hall and her anti-Jewish prejudice? Her being in New York, playing tennis and her being so -awkward, la-de-da? Her driving, the apartment, moving in? The quality of their love together ? the humour of the lovemaking and her inner soul leaving her body and watching the lovemaking? His urging her to study and the effect of adult education on her? Buying books. especially about death?. Paying for her psychoanalysis ? and the comparison of the talk about lovemaking between the two of them? Her career and her nervousness, her success? Tony Lacey and the world opened up to her? Going to parties and enjoying it? Enjoying Los Angeles? The reason for the break-up, her taking her books etc.? Going back to Los Angeles and meeting Alvie a year later? What did they have in common? How had they affected each other? The humour of her going to see the sorrow and the pity again?
10. How much insight via the presentation of the two families? Alvie being in his memories of his family taking Rob and Annie to see them? Enjoying the memories? The comparison of the two families in the meal-table technique?
11. The significance of the flashback to the two wives? The elaborate settings of the Stevenson convention and the relation with the first wife? The party and the relationship with the second? How did this compare with Pam the reporter for Rolling Stone and her impassive talk? Alvie's inability to relate well to women except for Annie and even then not permanently?
12. The portrait of Rob? Seeing him walking along the street so often with Alvie, the discussion about Jewish prejudice? Tennis games? TV series and putting canned laughter into it? Los Angeles, introducing him to Pam, getting him out of jail etc.? A glimpse of a type?
13. Tony Lacey and his entourage, catching Annie's act and praising her, his setup in Los Angeles, wealth, seeming phoniness to Alvie, attractive to Annie and her living with him for a year? The insight into the Los Angeles world in comparison with New York?
14. How much of the humour and insight came in the small vignettes: Annie and her awkwardness at their first meeting after the tennis game, and saying "La-de-da", the revelation in her driving, the conversation about adult education first praising it and then attacking it? The discussion about films and the sorrow and the pity, the appearance of Marshal McLuhan? The outings in the country, the talk at the harbour? The meeting in Los Angeles at the Health cafe? Alvie's bad driving? His being sick when he was supposed to give the award and then getting better when he didn't have to etc.?
15. The effect of the collage of memories about Annie at the end?
16. How enjoyable a comedy? How serious? The meaning of life? Alvie preoccupied with the big questions? A particularly American view? Insight into people and relationships?