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Annie Hall


Love is too weak a word.

Phil Bacharach March 6th, 2012

What’s there to say about Annie Hall? It’s an American classic, arguably Woody Allen’s finest film and perhaps one of the best romantic comedies of all time. The fact that it served as a turning point for Allen from full-bore comedies to more ambitious (if just as funny) stuff can make it easy to take for granted.

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But is its recent Blu-Ray release a worthwhile buy for fans of the Woodman? Well, if you haven’t seen the 1977 Academy Award winner enough times to quote it verbatim, or if you have but don’t own it, sure, it’s definitely worth a purchase. But Allen movies are notoriously no-frills on DVD and Blu-Ray, and this one, despite a solid transfer that accentuates Gordon Willis’ gorgeous cinematography, is no exception. A trailer is the sole extra.

The story itself isn’t so off-the-charts creative, but the storytelling certainly is. Boy — well, Allen as nebbishy man — meets girl — wait, make that Diane Keaton as neurotic woman — then loses girl, then complications ensue. Breakups, reconciliations and all that jazz.

On that broad canvas, writer-director Allen and co-writer Marshall Brickman construct a meta delight that not only skirts that fourth wall, but demolishes it. As Alvy Singer, the Woodman routinely addresses the audience to comment on the proceedings, whether it’s a Freudian slip from Annie or, famously, enduring the pretentiousness of a guy standing behind him at a movie theater. The narrative is a shimmering confection of flashbacks and fantasies that hints at some of Allen’s future flights of cinema.

It’s also one of Allen’s best-ever ensembles. Keaton, whose relationship with the director had ended long before the film was shot, rightly earned an Oscar for her performance as the titular character. Allen is at the height of his comedic gifts — it would be years before the shtick became creaky and kind of embarrassing — there is great supporting work from Tony Roberts, Janet Margolin, Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall and, memorably, Christopher Walken.

 
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