“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”
“You know, this guy goes to his psychiatrist and says, ‘Doc, my brother’s crazy. He thinks he’s a chicken.’ And the doctor says, ‘Well why don’t you turn him in?’ The guy says, ‘I would, but I need the eggs.’ Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships: you know, they’re totally irrational and crazy and absurd, but I guess we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs.”
Classic Woody Allen is an acquired taste, kind of like gefilte fish: too weird and off putting to appreciate right off the bat, you find that you actually look forward to his annual appearance once you get what he’s about. There’s no way around it: Woody Allen is for the urban set.
Annie Hall is hands down my favorite Woody Allen film, at least out of the ones I’ve seen—and I haven’t seen them all. It’s everything that makes a Woody Allen film great: lots of nervous banter, self-deprication, uncomfortable situations (usually but not always related to sex), an obsession with manners and etiquette, and hilariously pointed observations on the absurdities of modern life. It sounds like Seinfeld, but Allen was first.
The plot is simple enough: Alvy Singer (Allen) examines his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), an aspiring Manhattan singer and photographer. They play a cat-and-mouse game because neither wants to make the first move. Alvy and Annie are awkward and bizarre, but I still found myself rooting for both of them. The relationship doesn’t work out, but it’s really something while it lasts. Along the way are small, sublime parts for Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall, Jeff Goldblum, and Christopher Walken.
Annie Hall stands out even as a Woody Allen film, and for an obvious reason. Underneath its entertaining and brilliant storytelling, underneath its many bells and whistles—subtitled subtext, a cartoon segment, and cameos by Marshall McLuhan, Paul Simon, and the Evil Queen from Snow White? Fuck yeah!—is a poignant reality: people change. For all its warmth and wit, Annie Hall spends more time showing its protagonists fall out of love than in it. Rich and layered, it’s funny yet wrenchingly accurate. While we laugh out loud, it plays on our worst fears—none of us wants to end up where Alvy and Annie do.
In 1992, the United States Library of Congress deemed Annie Hall “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry (https://www.loc.gov/programs/national-film-preservation-board/film-registry/complete-national-film-registry-listing/).
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