Monday, 20 September 2010

Filling The Gaps: "La-di-da" Annie Hall

Future Dirty Old Man syndrome. In the course of this Filling the Gaps series, I have realized that seems to be why I haven't seen MOST so-called classics from the 1970s.

I also had the general feeling that I already 'knew' Woody Allen movies, having seen so many of them, but now I know that most of his pre-London films are watered down versions of Annie Hall.

Diane Keaton is the original manic pixie dreamgirl (see this Jezebel article to find out more about why this type can be completely loathsome if mishandled). There's no other way to explain her profound weirdness in this movie. The original article refers to the fact there's no way a girl like that could be real except as the perfect imagined mirror to Woody Allen's character.

But she's actually likeable, and very very watchable. The interweb reveals that Annie Hall was actually a major style icon who continues to influence designers like Stella McCartney today. No one would actually want to dress like Natalie Portman in Garden State (Which was a direct rip-off of Kate Winslet's look in Eternal Sunshine, which had a practical purpose of illustrating the changes in timelines. Natalie Portman, on the other hand, blech.)

However, there are many things that elevate this above pure dreck like Garden State and entertaining-yet-forgettable fare such as 500 (Days of Summer), which I remember being sold as 'the new Annie Hall.' For one thing, it has cracking dialogue. Woody was at his comedian finest, keeping the jokes fast and furious.

One of the reasons 500 (Days of Summer) failed as a film is that it tries to portray Joseph Gordon-Levitt as 'romantic', when really he's just extremely out of touch with reality, and frankly, a bit stupid. So it's hard to sympathize with him. Annie Hall at least starts from the premise that Woody Allen is a socially retarded maladjust, so his frequent bursts of irrationality fit into the context of his character. We know he can't help it, so we forgive it like any pathology. There's every indication that Annie Hall sees a commensurate spirit in Alvy, so the relationship wasn't actually doomed when it first started, unlike Summer and Tom's.

While Woody Allen is essentially playing himself as Alvy Singer, Neurotic Jew Extraordinaire (which has surely become it's own overused movie trope by now), that character type was still in its infancy at the time. And then again, it seems apparent to us now that Woody=Alvy, given that he's continued to basically play Alvie Singer as recently as Scoop, but was it obvious to moviegoers at the time? Must research old reviews...

Allen also made ample use of brilliant visual gags illustrating how Alvy sees conversations differently from everyone else, he reads into every last shred of subtext. So we end up with the Neurotic Jew version of Disney classic Sleeping Beauty, which I'm fairly certain that Walt himself would never allowed near the building.

  • Unexpected Christopher Walken!
  • Unexpected Paul Simon appearance! Annie Hall has seriously certifiable taste in men, Woody Allen then Paul Simon! Have there ever been less attractive men starring in Hollywood films?

  • Only the second movie I've seen with Diane Keaton, the first being The Godfather, which I just saw last week.
  • First Woody Allen "New York" film.


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