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Annie Hall

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Annie Hall

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Director: Woody Allen
Rated: PG
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: January 1977
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Classic

*Also starring: Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Colleen Dewhurst, Janet Margolin, John Glover

Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied

Woody Allen's unique style as a motion picture director, writer, actor and overall consumate professional make him one of the great American treasures in the history of cinema. His films are disliked by many; primarily by those who don't understand his neurotic flamboyance with dialogue to the point where it seems almost too real for average movie goers to understand that in many cases they're really looking at themselves up there on the big screen. It's hard to believe that Allen will be 62 years old this coming December and his films are timeless classics focusing predominantly on relationships.

Only two of Allen's films have been nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award and they are 'Annie Hall' (1977) and 'Hannah and Her Sisters' (1986). Other masterpiece showcases such as 'Interiors' (1978), 'Manhattan' (1979), 'Broadway Danny Rose' (1984), 'The Purple Rose of Cairo' (1985) and 'Bullets Over Broadway' (1994) had to settle for little or no recognition from Allen's peers although 'Hannah and Her Sisters' did win three Oscars in major categories---Michael Caine (Best Supporting Actor), Dianne Wiest (Best Supporting Actress) and Allen for the film's original screenplay hailed by many critics as the best original film literature of the 1980's.

Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) are the subjects of examination along with other New Yorkers (some eventually become Californians) in Allen's defining masterpiece which is his Academy Award winning film 'Annie Hall'. This picture was crowned with four Oscars (Best Picture, Director for Allen, Actress for Keaton and Original Screenplay by Allen and Marshall Brickman). On its twentieth anniversary it remains as fresh and original with high class wit and low brow production values perfect for viewing a Woody Allen movie. Allen often uses only one camera during the prduction of his films and allegedly made a statement saying he is never completely satisfied with any of his films. Understandable since so many artists don't like to look or listen to themselves in their selected fields, among them Mick Jagger, Jack Palance and Harrison Ford. A personal project can cry out for perfection and Allen is about as close as you'll find on an academic level but critics and film buffs respect and admire all that Allen's genius has contributed.

'Annie Hall' opens with a brilliant in your face stand up routine in which Allen is telling an old joke and comparing it to the way he feels about life and his dissection of social empathy is nothing short of hilarious. The deadpan humour throughout 'Annie Hall' is neatly presented and timed to perfection as each scene is well paced and knows when to exit once its made its point. Allen discusses the relationship with the many women in his life and his relationship with his friend played by the under rated Tony Roberts is pure gold. In one scene between the two actors there is a long tracking shot of a sidewalk and street and we don't see them come into the camera's range for quite sometime but all the while we hear their discussion about life in New York and it's discussed in a way which defines Allen as a true New Yorker. Roberts has nicknamed Allen 'Max' in the film and this leads to a discussion of what that nickname means. Is it short for maximum? It could be since Allen uses so many hand gestures and levels so much speaking time in the film to a "maximum" capacity that Roberts could be poking fun at his every turn.

Diane Keaton made a name for herself as the strong-willed and no nonsense girlfriend to Allen in the film as her character remotely subjects Allen to take a good look at himself and to see that his unwillingness to leave New York is not a selfish one but one that frustrates her as she makes California her home later in the picture. When the two of them first meet during an afternoon of tennis and they retreat in seclusion for a drink there is a conversation between them in which Allen interjects subtitles to show that what they're saying is really being covered up by cautious dialogue pursuant to what they're really thinking. It's one of the most original things ever seen in any movie and may be the film's best scene. Another classic moment comes when Allen is taking a drive with Roberts in California and an observation is made about how clean California is compared to New York and Allen suggests that all of California's garbage is recycled into t.v. shows. Hysterical !

With a cast that includes Shelley Duvall, Paul Simon, Carol Kane, Collen Dewhurst, and Christopher Walken, 'Annie Hall' is Allen's best film and winning four Oscars out of five nominations isn't bad either. That's a ratio of 80%. Oh, did I mention that the one it lost for was Allen as Best Actor. That's hard to believe in a film where Allen doesn't just play himself, he lives the part and that's an achievement all its own.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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