If you ask someone to name the first Woody Allen film that comes to mind, there’s a good chance they’ll say Annie Hall before any other of his forty-two movies. A further dozen distinguished films that Allen has shot will come to mind almost as quickly, but when he’s remembered in fifty or a hundred years, it will be Annie Hall that first appears beside his name. This is not without good reason. His famous romantic comedy, released in 1977, won four Academy Awards, including best feature, beating out Star Wars and three others. Annie Hall sticks with people. It is a brutal acid test for romantic comedies to match up against, for not only is it extraordinarily funny, and not only is it extraordinarily well written, but it is also an intelligent picture—a quality the romantic comedy genre criminally underrates—and it is smart in ways that it does not receive enough credit for.
I will say that, watching it after viewing some of Allen’s other standout pictures, Annie Hall comes across as something of a utilitarian work, at least in the way it was shot. The film is so well constructed and so typical of Woody Allen that we might be tricked into thinking it was one of his later works; in fact, it was only his sixth movie, and he credits it as being the one in which he broke from traditional comedy in favor of his recognized style—films that are intellectually meaningful as well as funny. Annie Hall is visually simpler than the likes of Manhattan, Stardust Memories, or even the earlier Love and Death, but this is very much a strength and not a weakness. The energy that might have been spent engineering a more visually adroit film is instead channeled into the narrative and the characters, and to great effect.
Tags: Diane Keaton