I thought of that old joke, y'know, the, this... this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy; he thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" The guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y'know, they're totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us... need the eggs.
— Alvy Singer
Annie Hall (1977) is an American romantic comedy film directed by Woody Allen from a script co-written with Marshall Brickman. One of Allen's most popular films, it won numerous awards at the time of its release, including four Academy Awards, and in 2002 Roger Ebert referred to it as "just about everyone's favorite Woody Allen movie".Allen had previously been known as a maker of zany comedies; the director has described Annie Hall as "a major turning point", as it brought a new level of seriousness to his work, in addition to consolidating his signature cinematic style, which includes long, realistically written scenes of conversation, often shot in uninterrupted takes, and an equal thematic investment in both hilarity and heartbreak.The film was originally written as a murder mystery, but Allen and editor Ralph Rosenblum chopped off the mystery parts, and turned the film into a romantic comedy being told by Alvy. Allen would later use the murder mystery plot for Manhattan Murder Mystery, which starred Allen and Keaton as a married couple, which many consider a Spiritual Successor to Annie Hall.
The Anti-Nihilist: A number of Alvy's opinions on life and relationships reek of pessimism and nihilism, best exemplified by the film's opening lines,
Alvy: There's an old joke, um... Two elderly women are at a Catskill Mountain resort, and one of 'em says, "Boy, the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah, I know; and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life—full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly.
This, however, is turned around when Alvy shares another joke at the very end of the film (See the page quote, at the top of the page) and rationalizes that he has a reason to endure all of the absurdity and suffering "because he needs the eggs". The theme is also exemplified through Dr. Flicker's viewpoint in his talk with young Alvy and his mother, when young Alvy had concluded that nothing is important because the the universe is expanding and everything in existence will fall apart.
Dr. Flicker: It won't be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we've gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we're here!
Alvy: I can't go into a movie that's already started, because I'm anal.
Annie: That's a polite word for what you are.
If this scene is any indication, Allison was a bit of a snarker herself:
Alvy: You, you, you're like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y'know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
Duane: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist, I think you'll understand. Sometimes when I'm driving... on the road at night... I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The... flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.
Alvy: Right. Well, I have to - I have to go now, Duane, because I, I'm due back on the planet Earth.
Imagine Spot: Seamlessly integrated in many times, most notably the scene in the movie theater line where he pulls in Marshall McLuhan to disprove a blowhard prattling on and on about him. "Boy, if life were only like this!"
In-Joke: At one point, Alvy gets a bit miffed over Annie having an issue of National Review. Ten years before the movie came out, Woody Allen had William F. Buckley on his show, and they got along quite well.
Bordwell tells me Annie Hall has an ASLnote average scene length of 14.5 seconds (he says other 1977 films he clocked had an ASL of from 4 to 7 seconds). By comparison, the recent film Armageddon has an ASL of 2.3 seconds, a velocity that arguably makes intelligent dialogue impossible.
Love Allegory: "A relationship is like a shark. It has to constantly move forward or it dies."
"Few viewers probably notice how much of Annie Hall consists of people talking, simply talking. They walk and talk, sit and talk, go to shrinks, go to lunch, make love and talk, talk to the camera, or launch into inspired monologues like Annie's free-association as she describes her family to Alvy."
Uncomfortable Elevator Moment: Remember Duane's speech about intentionally crashing his car into another head-on? Guess who is driving a relaxed Annie and a terrified, wary Alvy to the airport? At night? In the rain?With a car passing by in the opposite lane?
Unreliable Narrator: Alvy, by his own admission, has "some trouble between fantasy and reality".
Deconstructed by Alvy's play, in which it repeats the same California health food restaurant scene, but changed to reflect Alvy's desires.
Alvy: What do you want from me? It was my first play.
Vox Pops. Alvy discusses his relationship with Annie to various random people on the street - including a horse.
White Guilt: Alvy's parent's argument over firing the cleaning lady. Alvy's mother said she was stealing from them. Alvy's father said they should give her a break because she's "a colored woman from Harlem", and "The colored have enough trouble already", and "She's got a RIGHT to steal from us!"