Saturday, February 11, 2006

Annie Hall

Woody Allen, con6sidered to be the greatest of the directors making quintessentially American films, stormed into Hollywood with this romantic comedy in 1977. Largely autobiographical, the story is of a comedian who works his way up from nightclubs to political rallies and TV shows.
When the story starts he is already twice married and divorced. And he has been seeing Annie Hall, but they have broken up.
Allen can be savagely funny of other philosphers while being one himself. The joke that opens the picture goes like this.
Two old women sit are at a ski-resort having lunch. One woman says: The food here is terrible.
Ya, says the other one, and such small portions.
Allen then turns philosphical saying that's the way he feels about life. Happiness, sorrow, guilt , fear through your life and it's over much too fast.
Even as he courts Annie, Allen's Alvy Singer pokes fun at all things American. Godfather ( ''I am standing here with the cast of the Godfather''), Los Angeles (``the only cultural advantage to NY is you can turn right on a red light'') the country (``it's quiet, there are crickets and you cant walk after dinner'') and then some.
The story is told in a series of flashbacks, sometimes one within the other. There seems to be no particular logic to the way the story is told. For example, when we are introduced to Diane Keaton (Annie), the two have already met, fallen in love and are perhaps on the verge of a break. Sometimes Keaton and Allen (and often Allen alone) visit their past to give us insights into what kind of people they really are.
The photography is mostly of urban NY - its streets, cafes and apartments, except for a few scenes in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. And the camera work by Gordon Willis (Godfather, All the President's Men) is exquisite. And Allen knows enough to go against the grain and still be aesthetically pleasing.
The characters are potrayed in an off-key, casual manner, sometimes to a fault. They never look like they are in costumes or delivering lines. They always look like they are talking like they naturally would.
The movie took home the Best picture oscar besides three others.