Sunday, 12 May 2013

Scene 57: Review of Annie Hall

I have been collecting a bunch of 'rom-com' DVDs recently and last week, whilst I was on holiday, I spent an evening watching two of them - Made of Honour (2008) and Annie Hall (1977). Now I'm going to review Made of Honour and another rom-com later next week, but today I thought I'd concentrate on Annie Hall. 

Annie Hall was a revelation. I hadn't expect it to be.  Why should it? It's been around for years, its not new. Its Woody Allen, a classic. The film's style was even recently was parodied in an episode of The Simpsons called Love is A Many Splintered Thing

And yet...  Annie Hall was new, it was different, it was refreshing!

My surprise was probably partly down to my assumption that it would follow the normal rom-com pattern, that it would be conventional. After all, this is only my second taste of Woody Allen's style after Midnight in Paris (2011) - which is meant to be his most accessible film. 

So, of course I was somewhat confused at the fact that we had this jumping and switching as Woody Allen's character Alvy narrated and explained some of his past and talked about his previous wives. However I began to realise then, and in retrospect, that the film was being told in a stream of conscious like style, at least in my opinion. To me the whole film is Alvy's memories as he tells us the audience, about Annie and about himself. It's like a novel, a Virginia Woolf one, but less linear. 

This is one of the many reasons its so unusual compared to most romances or even most movies, which follow the good old beginning, middle and end - with perhaps the odd one playing the 'tease the ending' trick and then telling the whole film in flashback, for example Bradley Cooper on the edge of a balcony at the beginning of Limitless. 

Diane Keaton is not only beautiful in her bohemian outfits - that tie, waistcoat and hat combination which is probably a classic image now - but also a very real person. In fact both Alvy and Annie are wonderfully written characters, though of course Alvy has that nervous, intelligent and slightly neurotic quality that I guess is typical of his leading characters. 

I guess in the end the thing that I found most refreshing about, because I keep saying it, is how real and grounded it feels compared to other rom-coms I have personally watched. It's not just the story or the characters though, its the way it looks too. There is definitely a hint of the quirky in the film, especially from Annie, but otherwise the places and the people look and seem mundane. 

Perhaps it's because of the era it was shot in and the cameras that were used, but the slightly dull look to the film also gives this impression that this is reality - despite the fact its Alvy's memories. Modern Hollywood films do tend to have what I call a 'glossy' look, where the clothes are all stylish and the houses all look tidy, and clean, and well decorated. This sort of gloss, in the extreme, was summed up in what Danny Leigh once said about This is 40 (2012), when he pointed out that the house seemed unnaturally clean all the time and yet this was a family home, with kids in the house. 

In Annie Hall, the houses look nice, but they also look like homes - in one scene Alvy almost knocks over some washing up stacked in the drying rack, and I distinctly remember a bare light bulb in Annie's apartment reflecting the old white walls. 

I could go into more, but I feel like I need to re-watch the film, and that I need to watch more films to confirm that my theories on this films originality are right - I am an amateur reviewer after! 

Also, I'd like to recommended that you just watch this film yourself, because for me its the sort of film that you just need to discover for yourself. Because its made quite an impact on me, at least I think it has, as after I the film finished I started writing a Woody Allen style monologue! 

Anyway, I'll be posting up my scripted scene of the week in a separate post, so look out for that. If you have any opinions on Annie Hall or Woody Allen's work, please comment below.  

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