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A Movie a Week #3: Annie Hall

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Essentially every movie is a love story.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love, they live happily ever after – you know the score.  It’s what we’ve come to expect and chances are we’d be pretty peeved if it didn’t go down that way.  If for some reason everything didn’t go according to plan and the couple who were so clearly destined to spend the rest of their lives together didn’t walk off into the sunset in each other’s arms.  That might be why when a film does decide to delve into the unexplored aspects of relationships and modern romance, it’s often met with mixed opinions, leaving audiences unsure how to digest it.  Annie Hall, Woody Allen’s ninth directorial gig does just that, and in doing so he cements his status as a filmmaker unafraid to go against the grain, showing the reality of relationships, that who you believe to be the ‘one’ may not always be the ‘one’ for you and why, in the end, that might not always be such a bad thing.  It’s also one of the most enduring romantic comedies to hit cinemas, packed with smart, often hilarious moments which feel as fresh today as they did thirty years ago.

No other film manages to capture the ups and downs of relationships quite as well as Annie Hall.  From the awkward first encounter, to the silly arguments, eventually arriving at the painful break up, Woody Allen’s neurotic Alvy Singer takes us through the whole rollercoaster of emotions and experiences during his time with Diane Keaton’s Annie. A couple who after all their hilarious ups and argumentative downs realise they may not be right for each other. By breaking down the cinematic ‘fourth’ wall Allen creates a new dimension to his offbeat romantic comedy, allowing characters to explore hypothetical scenarios and giving Alvy and Annie’s relationship new vantage points.  But what sets Annie Hall apart from most typical Hollywood love stories are its elongated scenes of dialogue, thanks to cinematographer Gordon Willis who simply allowed the camera to roll and Allen who allowed his characters the freedom to just talk. Combine Willis’ extended takes with Allen’s improv encouraged directing style and the result is a sometimes painfully accurate portrayal of modern romance.

The bittersweet ending sequence sums things up quite nicely, in which Alvy asks why we voluntarily put ourselves through such heartache time and time again. Allen’s character comes to the conclusion that relationships, however crazy and painful are something we all need, a philosophy which is perhaps explained best in his own words. “I thought of that old joke,” explains Alvy, “this guy goes to a 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.’

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