Monday, March 10, 2008

Annie Hall

Part of the joy of Netflix is being able to watch movies that you've only seen parts of, and then only chopped up on TV.

Annie Hall 1977

The Plot: Romantic comedy, with comedian Alvy falling for Annie Hall. Set in NYC.

The Good:
A non-linear story, starting with the end of the romance and then showing scenes from Alvy and Annie's relationship. Other inventive bits of movie making: Alvy and Annie talk, with subtitles revealing what they really think and fear; Alvy talking directly to the audience; Marshall McLuhan.

Woody Allen was already in his 40s when he made this film; and he makes the character, Alvy, also 40. A bit refreshing, in today's culture obsessed with youth and beauty, to find a romantic lead that is his 40s and wears his years.

When watching "old" movies, the question arises -- how does it hold up? Wonderfully well. While Annie Hall's clothes were noteworthy and fashion forward at the moment, to today's viewer they are common place; which means, rather than having to "get over" the dated clothes, we watch a person who could walk down Manhattan's streets today and not look out of place. Of course, as viewer, that means that we don't "get" that Annie's look is as unique as she is.

The only other bit I saw as dated was Annie living in Manhattan. Her apartment costs $400 a month; and Alvy thinks that is too expensive. Alvy is successful; but Annie is... well, Annie is the classic MidWestern girl who leaves high school to move to the big city to find herself and live. She sings a little, I think she acts a little, she takes some classes. It's the type of story that happened for years and years in real life... but now, I wonder, with NYC real estate prices, where do today's Annie Halls live?

I also watch old movies wondering, "would the Internet or cell phones drastically alter the plot"? And while I think that a more recent movie would have more cell phone conversations instead of people walking down a street talking, perhaps an IM chat, nothing happens that modern inventions would change.

Alvy is succesful; Annie is an aspiring singer. Alvy is a New Yorker; Annie is Miss Midwest who has adopted New York. Alvy cannot help falling into the "older and wiser" role, as he steers her towards the books he thinks she should read and the classes she should take. Hhmmm.... I am pretty certain that while Alvy tries to change Annie, Annie does not attempt a make over on Alvy.

This is the Woody Allen I love; the pre-sleeping with stepdaughter and not knowing it's a bad thing Woody. He's funny and serious, observant, witty, sharp. The dialogue is great, the characterizations spot-on. The romance is heart-breakingly real; and of course, it ends. As it must. And we, the audience, know why, even tho Alvy never sees it himself until it is too late.

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