Sunday, August 28, 2011

Annie Hall (Woody Allen)

Annie and Alvy, Diane and Woody; it's either way.

A second viewing.

Looking at the gallery of the previous Oscar winners for best picture, "Annie Hall" is definitely one of the most unorthodox and unglazed of all the films that have won the coveted prize. No majestic scope, no larger-than-life characters and no unreachable emotional core, but only an accessibly psychoanalytical and pop-intellectual presence of Woody Allen and his one-liners. Oh, and there's also the impeccable Diane Keaton as the titular character (whose real name is, well you've guessed it: Diane 'Annie' Hall) whose unassumingly fluctuating romance with Allen's character Alvy Singer founds the film's distinct postmodernist approach to the uber-complicated thing we all call 'love'.

Opening scenes meter what we can expect from a particular film's wholeness, be it an initial action scene or a non-linear middle scene pushed right into the beginning. We are introduced into "Annie Hall" with a monologue by Woody Allen, to which I'm not sure if he's uttering his entry comic speech as him being Alvy Singer, the other way around or a random combination of both. Either way, it's a subtle delivery that may not give the immediate feel of the film but definitely serves unto us the fragile wholeness of our neurotic main character. Why is he even talking to us in the first place? Is he really that lonely in his own reality of 'death' and isolated 'mental masturbation' that he wills himself to break the fourth wall?

Unlike other 'love' stories that preceded "Annie Hall" which starts with impossible chance encounters and ends with reconciliations, this film started somewhere where Alvy and Annie's romantic complications are at an all-time high but their emotional excitement for each other at an all-time low. Then like an unsure blend of fantasy and reality, the film then traces the pieces of how this 'nervous romance' came to be, or at least something like that. But with the tone of the film, which I believe can go on for days and days (the movie itself) even without an audience (this Woody Allen fellow really talks a lot), it's apt to say that the film really couldn't care less.

The ability to enact both a pessimistic existential viewpoint (according to Alvy, the 'horrible' and the 'miserable' are the only dividends of life) and an indifferent humor throughout yet hints on an underlying warmth beneath its 'foreskin'. This is one of the unique aspects of the film which certainly gave it the prestigious Oscar award. Right now, the said award is nothing but history, and although I think that "Annie Hall" hasn't aged that well, its portrayal of the distorted nuances of 'love' and 'contemporary existence' never did.

Written and directed by Woody Allen himself, I know that it's not quite right, chronologically and qualitatively speaking, that I was introduced into Allen's works (not counting "Vicky Cristina Barcelona") via "Annie Hall", a film that is widely considered to be the artistic zenith of his film career.

Now on the other hand, although I loved every moment of how Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's effortless chemistry pervades the screen through and through, their dialogue exchanges that seem like trivial conversations between two not-so-special souls and their consummate embraces and kisses amidst a backdrop of a surprisingly subdued New York City (photography by Gordon Willis), I really can't see myself as Alvy Singer.

Reckon how other 'love story' heroes mirror us one way or another? This is Woody Allen's difference. He can look as plain, thin and 'balding' as he is, but at least, his Alvy Singer is never completely us. A character that is molded more out of clumsy ubiquity (based on his sometimes alienating but seemingly all-knowing one-bit opinions and whatnot) than crazy human simplicity.

Granted, "Annie Hall" is a complex film of romantic proportions, but its heart lies within two key jokes uttered by Alvy himself: the humorous 'elderly women' analogy and the 'chicken brother' joke. Unnoticed as it may seem, these jokes weren't just meant to give a start and end transition for the whole film but a perceptive change for Alvy Singer himself. And like the autobiographical stage play that he has created near the end of the film, after all his musings about the futility of life and the importance of death, he simply wants his romance warm and eternalized, just like everyone else.


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