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Annie Hall: the Overview of the Filmmaking Genius

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Annie Hall is a romantic comedy starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. It is important in film history, being full of narratives, inner thoughts, split screens, and time changes. The film began Woody Allen’s recognition as a filmmaker with the Hollywood elite, winning 4 Academy Awards in 1978 (Jordan). The narrative is told by Alvy, played by Woody Allen. He speaks directly to the audience about his life, with scenes from his own childhood to the present time.

The movie follows the classic 3-act structure. This consists of the setup, the confrontation, and the resolution (Hellerman). Alvy tells the audience that he is lonely and unhappy. He wonders where things went wrong. Because of his neurotic personality, he has had two failed marriages. He has been in psychotherapy since he was a child. Annie and Alvy meet at a tennis match. Annie seems shy and insecure. Both Alvy and Annie seem to have an emotional dependence that precipitates them falling in love (Jordan).

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Act II is the confrontation. This is the act when the characters start “trying and failing to achieve what they want” (Hellerman). The importance of conflict is evident at this point of the story. The happiness that comes with being in love begins to waiver when Annie moves in with Alvv. Alvy does not want to feel like they are married, but he wants Annie to sexually and emotionally need him. There are some funny obstacles all along the way, with everything from Annie having to get high to have sex, to the spiders that Alvy must kill for her with a tennis racket. Alvy wants Annie to change, so he pays for her to go to therapy sessions. He encourages her to read and take classes. They break up when she gains confidence in herself. She evolves into an independent person and chooses a path without Alvy.

After the undramatic breakup, Act III ends the story. The conflict is resolved. Annie moves to Los Angeles and then back to New York. Alvy tries to pick up where they ended, but things have changed. Their relationship has outgrown itself, and they end as friends.

Alvy’s narratives give the audience insight into his neurotic thoughts and personality. He tells the audience right away that he and Annie broke up. The story of his struggles and conflicts with himself and his relationship with Annie is at the center of the film. The narratives are mostly told from his perspective, and they shift in time. His monologue in the present time quickly goes back to the past in order to give background to his story. He also frequently shifts from being narrator to character.

Woody Allen also uses a range of visual tactics (Ebert). One is split screens, such as when Alvy and Annie are both in different therapy sessions talking about their sex lives. Words on the screen are used when the audience needs to know the character’s thoughts. There is one scene in the film where Annie is removed from her body. Her body is in bed, but her mind is distracted. The scene of Alvy’s childhood home shaking beneath the roller coaster visually shows the “instability and confusion” of Alvy and Annie’s relationship (Jordan).

I thought Annie Hall was somewhat entertaining, but I would have enjoyed it better without the narratives and the shifts in time. I decided to watch it because I generally like romantic comedies. This one was different from most others. I knew how it was going to end early in the beginning of the movie, making it less intriguing. The best parts of the movie are the funniest ones. I laughed when Alvy tries to get out of a parking lot in LA and when he kills the spiders with the tennis racket. Overall, it is simply a movie about getting together and breaking up without a lot of drama in the middle. 

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