In 1978 Annie Hall won four Oscars: best film, director, screenplay and actress in a leading role. Woody Allen did not leave New York and did not travel to Hollywood to collect his prize, but took the opportunity to let people know that “the film is the result of everything that Diane Keaton represents in my life and in cinema”. The autobiographical element is clear and justifies the direct address to the spectator: in the opening shot, Woody Allen looks the public in the eye and starts talking about himself. This direct address recurs again and again, frequently resulting in comic highlights. Allen got the idea of breaking the illusion of classical narration from Bergman’s The Passion of Anna (over the years, sources of inspiration cited have also included Ionesco, Pirandello, Brechtian distanciation devices, and Groucho in Horse Feathers). The impact of Annie Hall, its “romantic disintegration” (Peter Bailey) and consequent linguistic disintegration, was very relevant. What Diane Keaton had represented in Allen’s life went on to influence one trend of the period: a female glamour made up of seductive insecurity, dreamy talking, slight dependence on drugs, and oversized trousers and little ties, in clear homage to the style of Kate the Great (Alvy Singer and Annie Hall’s first meeting, the tennis match, the car journey recall Bringing Up Baby). If Annie is muse and genius loci (the locus, naturally, is New York), our hero’s ego nevertheless prevents him from renouncing centre stage: tormented by the unavoidable combination of sex and death, Alvy speculates, interprets, questions himself and the world, and above all uses memory as a privileged playground. Memories of the self that appear spontaneously, rich, varied, multi-directional and alternately playful and melancholic. These mental ramblings were so free that Allen ended up with over two hundred minutes of footage, later reduced to the current ninety-three minutes by sacrificing the most surreal fantasies. Then again, for Alvy Singer – intellectual, jew, hypochondriac, a New York moralist physically allergic to the fatuous amorality of California – memory cannot fail to be a focal point. He watches and re-watches the Holocaust documentary The Sorrow and the Pity and at the end of his relationship with Annie he concludes that it was great simply to have met her, if memories of her will endure, Proustian ‘moments lost in time’ that we see replayed while Diane Keaton’s voice whispers Seems like old times and the editing momentarily purifies life of all its flaws, every mistaken gesture or dull moment. Alvy and Annie kiss in front of the Manhattan skyline seen from Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive: the age of Woody Allen, everyman with no equal of modern film comedy, has officially begun.
Cast and Credits
Scen.: Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman. F.: Gordon Willis. M.: Ralph Rosenblum. Scgf.: Mel Bourne. Int.: Woody Allen (Alvy Singer), Diane Keaton (Annie Hall), Tony Roberts (Rob), Carol Kane (Allison), Paul Simon (Tony Lacey), Shelley Duvall (Pam), Janet Margolin (Robin), Christopher Walken (Duane Hall). Prod.: Charles H. Joffe per United Artists. DCP 4K. D.: 93’. Col.
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