Woody Allen’s breakthrough as a ‘serious’ filmmaker is a sublimely funny romantic comedy about an overly anxious comedian’s relationship with Diane Keaton’s ditzy eccentric.
“One of the funniest pictures made in America since World War Two. Groucho Marx, who died on the first day of the year, and Charlie Chaplin, who passed away on one of the last, would both have been proud to sign such a film.”
Peter Cowie, Annie Hall, BFI Film Classics, 1996
After a decade of directing and/or writing overtly comedic films, Woody Allen’s fortieth birthday heralded a dramatic gear-change. While Annie Hall offers at least as many laughs as its predecessors, they’re now drawn from the autobiographical roots of Allen’s own anxieties about life and relationships: Diane Keaton, who plays the title character, was once his real-life girlfriend.
The film was originally called Anhedonia – a condition that inhibits the inability to experience pleasure – and that’s Allen’s alter ego Alvy Singer’s problem. Brought up beneath the Coney Island rollercoaster (allegedly, but it’s an eye-catching image), he treats life as though it was a similarly perilous brake-free journey.
Casual asides are deconstructed for latent anti-Semitism, strangers are asked for relationship advice (“We use a large vibrating egg”, recommends an elderly passer-by), lovers are reconciled over a spider in the bathtub panic, and the theorist Marshall McLuhan is spontaneously produced to settle an argument with an annoying pedant.
Annie Hall has inspired countless romantic comedies including When Harry Met Sally (1989), L.A. Story (1991) and Chasing Amy (1997). Allen’s own Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993) revived an early concept for the film.
13 critics voted for this film
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