Blog post by Ross Munro for Wholly Cinema.
Quick, everyone- cancel those overpriced restaurant reservations at that new trendy place that serves your meals while you and your beloved are suspended twenty stories in the air (hmm…I’m sensing a new Cirque de Soleil idea…) and, instead, grab a bouquet of posies from the grocery store and settle into the couch to enjoy the best Valentine’s movie of all time- Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” ( I almost picked “The Exorcist”…I’m funny that way).
I know what you’re thinking- “What…? No ‘Titanic’? No ‘Affair To Remember’?” Well, La-De-friggin-Da. I’ll be darned if the Woodster hasn’t concocted the funniest most bittersweet romantic movie of all time.
Released in early summer ’77, Woody launched his most unexpected “nervous comedy” on the general public causing movie critics all across the land to recognize officially his transformation from his previous films’ slapstick/joke-oriented confections (“Sleeper”, “Bananas”) to his new anointed title of Fully Mature Filmmaker with “Annie Hall”.
Always hinting at his love of the pantheon of Euro filmmakers in his earlier work (the Fellini-esque Italian movie segment in “Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sex…” and the Bergman-like touches in “Love & Death”), Woody boldly took those influences and enlarged them for all to admire with “Annie Hall” creating a unique hybrid, at least for mainstream American comedies, of his stand up comic sensibilities and mise-en-scene formalness.
Here Allen rises to the top of his form as he throws all his aformentioned cinematic influences against the wall- cribbing generously from “Amarcord” and “Scenes From A Marriage” amongst others with “Annie Hall”’s strong autobiographical renderings.
But, hey, don’t think Woody forgot how to make you laugh- no, sir. A scene where his character, Alvy Singer, an insecure stand up comedian, awkwardly attends a coke-fuelled party just about blew the roof off the theatre with a thunderous roar of audience laughter back when I saw it upon release back in the day.
Oh, yah, and this humble little romantic comedy won for Best Picture at the Oscars over a little flick about wookies and light sabres called “Star Wars”- something that’s almost unheard of for a comedy throughout the long history of the Academy Awards.
And speaking of which, how about the divine comedic national treasure Diane Keaton winning her very own Best Actress Oscar which she accepted graciously in person while, of course, Woody, in typical fashion, though nominated for his one and only acting award, couldn’t be bothered to attend the event – choosing instead to stick with his weekly NYC clarinet gig.
Also, watch out for a small but hilarious early appearance by a young Christopher Walken (a few years shy of winning his own Oscar for “The Deer Hunter”) as well as “Media is the Message” cultural philosopher Marshall McLuhan suddenly showing up outside a movie theatre to help settle an argument for Allen’s character.
The wonderful cinematic surprises, sophistication, belly laughs and bittersweet nature make Woody Allen’s mature romantic masterpiece the one to watch this Valentine’s Day. If you can’t manage to secure a copy, well, there’s always “The Exorcist”…
Viva La Cinema!