Films of Shame chronicles my impressions of movies I should have seen before now, but haven’t. I’ve already taken Citizen Kane, The Shining and The Godfather Part II off my list. My final film on the list will be Taxi Driver.
Annie Hall holds a place in oscar history as the last comedy to win Best Picture at the academy awards. It’s interesting to consider why. Perhaps one reason is that where as most comedies paint in broad strokes – with observations that hit home with as many people as possible, Woody Allen’s film has an incredibly personal feel to it.
As Alvy breaks the fourth wall, and speaks directly to camera, it’s difficult to tell where he ends and Woody Allen begins. In addition, the title character was also based on Diane Keaton, whose real name is Diane Hall, and nickname is ‘Annie’.
This personal nature of the film fits incredibly snugly next to its theme of relationships – why we choose to put ourselves through the highs and lows of love despite our lack of success in the field to date.
The narrative structure is such that Annie Hall flits back and forth between the present day and the time the two lead characters met. In doing so we explore what works and what doesn’t about their relationship. The little things that become bigger things later, the way the two of them want the other to change, without them losing what it is they were attracted to in the first place.
As Alvy narrates over his own movie, his own relationship, it mirrors our own ability to narrate our own lives, and in particular our own relationships. We often assume a certain moment meant this, or a certain phrase meant that, but we can never be sure precisely what this meant to the other person.
Annie Hall, unlike most comedies, has something to say. It captures the joy and humour of meeting someone you love, as well as the confusion and isolation of trying to make your two lives and personalities mesh together.
Alvy starts the movie with a line from Groucho Marx: “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.”. By the end of the movie, we’re left pondering what it is within us that gives us that desire to compromise, share, and love with another person. Why is it that, above so many other things, many of us seek the most?