Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Annie Hall



USA 1977
director : Woody Allen
script : Allen, Marshall Brickman
cinematography : Gordon Willis
editing : Ralph Rosenblum
lead actors : Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
93 minutes

25 years on, it seems ever more remarkable that Annie Hall managed to beat cash-cow Star Wars at the 1977 Oscars. Woody Allen, with his legendary indifference to Academy Awards, still boasts that, of all Best Picture winners, his made the least money. Its also the shortest – and, arguably, the best. None, certainly, comes close in terms of experimentation this is his fifth film as director, and Allen risks a freewheeling, try-anything structure, relentlessly bending the rules of cinema just to see what happens.

And so very much of it comes off, even if repeated viewings do reveal how little actually happens in the brief but intense comic romance between comedian Alvy Singer (Allen) and aspiring singer Annie Hall (Keaton), and how much the film concentrates on Alvy, no matter what the title might suggest this remains Allens only Best Actor nomination, and he should have won. But familiarity doesn’t sap the freshness: individual scenes and lines are no less impressive (and funny) for having passed so securely into the popular consciousness. Among films, perhaps only Psycho and Casablanca have managed the same feat.

Too many people only know Annie Hall from its heavy TV rotation on the big screen, Gordon Williss cinematography comes to the fore, rivalling even Ralph Rosenblums crucial work in the editing suite (Allens editors are often described as the real directors of his work, chopping down the huge spools of footage into these economic bite-sizes). This is the most geographically energetic of all Allens films, and Willis does remarkable things with the drizzly greys of Manhattan, the garish brightness of Los Angeles. But no matter how big the screen, Sigourney Weaver, who allegedly pops up at the very end, remains a tall, tiny speck in the far distance.

7th January, 2001
(seen Dec-30-01, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle)

by Neil Young