Flick of the Day: Annie Hall

Romantic comedy is not a genre I often find myself enjoying but when it comes to Woody Allen, I make an exception. Considered his breakthrough film, Annie Hall is a romantic comedy with a difference. It tells the story of the failure of a relationship with a seriousness that heretofore had not been seen in Allen's work while retaining his natural humour.
Allen plays a version of himself as comedian Alvy Singer who from the opening scene explains that his relationship with Annie, played by Diane Keaton, ended one year ago. The film then proceeds to tell the story of the rise and fall of their relationship through a series of vignettes. Singer is a man obsessed with the banalities of life and a need to see anti-Semitism in anyone who disagrees him.  Where he is an obsessive New York liberal, Annie is a free spirit from Wisconsin with a passion for photography. We gradually learn of Alvie's previous failed relationships and sexual failures and find that perhaps Annie is the cure for his neurosis. Ultimately the ups and downs of their relationship allow Allen to engage in musings on his favourite topics like therapy, the absurd oddities of the dating scene and the human condition while perfectly skewering the kind of upper east-side intellectuals that seem to populate Allen's films. 
Allen has never been better as an actor then in the role of Alvie, perhaps because it is almost autobiographical in tone. That said perhaps the best sequences in the film are those where Allen is taking his keen and acerbic eye to American life in the 1970's. The scene where he contrasts the WASPish preoccupations of Annie's family with his own Brooklyn Jewish roots is still hilarious today. It is this humour and the one liners which have ensured that the film hasn't become dated and still feels relevant today though the musings and cultural references have moved on. When the couple take a trip to California, Allen takes his considerable wit to skewering the kind of fake personalities and faux mysticism that populate La-la land.

        [a guest is calling his meditation guruParty guest: Hello? I forgot my mantra.  

There is a realism at the core of the film which makes it seem more vital and true. In any other film, Annie and Alvie would waltz off into the sunset. Here, though they seem perfect for each other first it is the little flaws and obsessions in their personality which eventually drive them apart. It is typically condescending of normal Hollywood fare to attempt to assure us all that everything will work out in the end, that is not Allen's way and it isn't true to real life. Relationships have their ups and downs and sometimes they end.
Alvy Singer: Don't you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we're left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.
A landmark film for romantic comedies, it introduced a new level of intelligence to the genre and set Woody Allen on the path to new found acceptance outside of New York and in the great cinema going public of middle America. It was also the first of three films in a row to star Diane Keaton culminating in perhaps Allen's best work Manhattan in 1979. Annie Hall beat out stiff competition from The Goodbye Girl and Star Wars to win the Best Picture Oscar for 1977.
Alvy Singer: Lyndon Johnson is a politician, you know the ethics those guys have. It's like a notch underneath child molester.