Filmsite Movie 

Review 100 Greatest 

Annie Hall (1977)
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The Story (continued)

In front of a poster for Ingmar Bergman's Face to Face (1975), Alvy blames her bad mood on her monthly period, and they squabble together:

Alvy: Hey, you are in a bad mood. You must be getting your period.
Annie: I'm not getting my period. Jesus, every time anything out of the ordinary happens, you think that I'm getting my period.

Because they are late, Alvy refuses to stay because they've missed two minutes of the opening titles and credits of Bergman's film. She wails to him that they won't miss anything but the titles, and: "they're in Swedish." Even though she sighs, "I'm not in the mood to see a four-hour documentary on Nazis," he drags her across to the Upper West Side, where they stand in another movie line at The New Yorker theatre for Ophul's The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) (a four-hour documentary about Nazism) - a film they have already seen. Alvy explains that he is pent up with obsessive personality characteristics - it is a crisis if he misses even one minute of a film:

I've got to see a picture exactly from the start to the finish, 'cause, 'cause I'm anal.

She zings him when he admits he has a strident, "anal" personality: "That's a polite word for what you are." At first while they make small-talk in the second movie line, Alvy tries to ignore the intellectual cant of a pretentious academic braggard (Russell Horton) standing behind them in the lobby who opines loudly to his date:

We saw the Fellini film last Tuesday. It was not one of his best. It lacks a cohesive structure. You know, you get the feeling that he's not absolutely sure what it is he wants to say. 'Course, I've always felt he was essentially a - a technical film maker. Granted, La Strada was a great film. Great in its use of negative imagery more than anything else. But that simple, cohesive core...Like all that Juliet of the Spirits or Satyricon, I found it incredibly indulgent. You know, he really is. He's one of the most indulgent filmmakers. He really is...

[Possibly, indulgent director Woody Allen is cautioning the Annie Hall film audience against making rash judgments about the incohesive, complex, and ambiguous structure of his film that they are watching.] Under his breath, Alvy reacts: "I'm gonna have a stroke...He's screaming his opinions in my ear."

Annie is thoroughly depressed about how she missed her all-important therapy session with her psychiatrist because she overslept. Alvy is annoyed with her disguised aggression - and loud revelations, acknowledging the crucial role psychiatry plays in modern love:

Alvy: Do you know what a hostile gesture that is to me?
Annie: I know, because of our sexual problem, right?
Alvy: Everybody on line at The New Yorker has to know our rate of intercourse?

The professor continues to savage others like Samuel Beckett. Alvy is unable to bear any more of the obnoxious, intellectual phony behind them: "He's spitting on my neck." Annie accuses Alvy of ego-centricity when they argue about their sexual problems:

Annie: You know, you're so ego-centric that if I miss my therapy, you can only think of it in terms of how it affects you!...
Alvy: (sighing and turning to Annie after a digression) What do you mean, our sexual problem? I mean, I'm comparatively normal for a guy raised in Brooklyn.
Annie: OK, I'm very sorry. My sexual problem, OK? My sexual problem. Huh? (A man in front of them in line turns back to look at them, and then turns away.)
Alvy: (embarrassed) I never read that. That was, that was Henry James, right? Novel, huh, the sequel to The Turn of the Screw, 'My Sexual Problem'?

In the movie-ticket line, Alvy wishes to one-up and embarrass the pseudo-intellectual movie buff who loudly pontificates, claims to teach a course on TV, Media and Culture at Columbia University, and quotes extensively from influential Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan:

What I wouldn't give for a large sock with horse manure in it. (He steps forward out of line and addresses the camera.)...What do you do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you? It's just maddening.

Even the blowhard speaks to the camera: "Why can't I give my opinion? It's a free country." Alvy triumphantly brings on the real-life Professor McLuhan to tell the man he doesn't know what he is talking about. Media critic McLuhan conveniently emerges from behind a theatre lobby signboard to contradict the theories of the startled, pompous bore who is annoying Alvy (and to satirize himself):

I heard what you were saying. You, you know nothing of my work. You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.

[The first choice(s) for a real-life artist/film-maker wasn't McLuhan, but Federico Fellini, and then Luis Bunuel.]

About this obvious, magically-fanciful situation, Alvy demonstrates the film's major theme - he turns to the camera and states that only in art can one re-shape reality and have such complete control over life:

Boy, if life were only like this.

After viewing the black and white documentary film, a grim documentary about how life 'really is,' Alvy and Annie discuss The Sorrow and the Pity in bed. Alvy predicts how Annie would stand up under German Nazi torture with a definitive, classic joke. It is mildly chauvinistic with anti-bourgeois attitudes and wit:

Alvy: The Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale's charge card and you'd tell 'em everything.
Annie: That movie makes me feel guilty.
Alvy: Cause it's supposed to.

Annie is disinclined to have sex ("our sex problem") and gives a few excuses for declining - she has to rest her voice before singing the next night, and she is just going through a phase. Rather than dwell on their particular problem, Annie suggests looking back to sex problems in Alvy's first marriage: "You've been married before. You know how things can get. You were very hot for Allison at first."

A four and a half minute flashback shows Alvy's entire relationship with his first wife - one that cooled off rather rapidly. As an aspiring standup comedian, Alvy meets politically-active Jewess Allison Portchnik (Carol Kane). He is about to dispense jokes and deliver a monologue at a college political rally/fund-raiser for 1960 presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. [In 1960, Stevenson was a Democratic Party presidential candidate for the third time, but was defeated at the Democratic National Convention by John F. Kennedy.] [This scene was filmed at the Statler Hilton Hotel.] In their first conversation, Alvy insensitively reduces Allison, who is writing her thesis on 'Political Commitment in 20th Century Literature,' "to a cultural stereotype," much like a bigot:

You're like a New York Jewish, Left-Wing, Liberal Intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps, and the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right? Really, you know, strike-oriented, kind of Red - Stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself!

Allison responds with sarcasm: "No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype," as Alvy confesses his leftist bigotry: "Right, I'm a bigot, you know, but for the left." To encourage him before he appears on-stage, Allison reveals her attraction for him: "I think you're cute." In his one-joke performance, Alvy mixes sex and politics in a joke about briefly dating ("screwing") a woman during the Eisenhower administration (1953-1961), although he claims he's "not essentially a political comedian at all":

I was trying to do to her what Eisenhower has been doing to the country for the last eight years.

A few years pass and in the next scene, they are a married couple and their relationship is already doomed. In their bedroom (ca. 1964), theorist Alvy is obsessed with speculative doubts about the Kennedy assassination conspiracy and the Warren Commission Report's "second-gun" theory as a way to avoid having sex: "You're using this conspiracy theory as an excuse to avoid sex with me." Allison always was eager to make love, but Alvy pushed her away, not desiring a woman who would desire him. In an aside to the camera, Alvy admits that Allison was right, thinking back to film's opening joke:

Oh, my God, she's right. Why did I turn off Allison Portchnik? She was beautiful, she was willing. She was real intelligent. Is it the old Groucho Marx joke that I'm - I just don't want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member?

In the next famous "lobster scene," Alvy and Annie spontaneously laugh at crawling crustaceans on the kitchen floor as they clumsily prepare a lobster dinner at a beach house in the Hamptons: "Maybe we should just call the police. Dial 911. It's the lobster squad." Alvy is fearful of them and when he realizes that one big lobster has crawled behind the refrigerator, Alvy jokes:

It'll turn up in our bed at night. Talk to him. You speak shellfish...Annie, there's a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can't get it out...Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side?...We should have gotten steaks, 'cause they don't have legs. They don't run around.

Annie captures the experience in photographs she takes with her camera. [This scene parallels the one of Alvy's later battle with spiders in Annie's bathroom.]

Later as they walk along the Long Island beach shore at dusk, Alvy asks Annie about her previous boyfriends. Rather than just hearing her talk about them, we see a younger Annie a few years before with each of her boyfriends. Present-day Annie (born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) and Alvy are also in each scene of the past, providing commentary. In front of a movie marquee showing John Huston's The Misfits (1961), there was a blank-faced "Dennis from Chippewa Falls High School." An embarrassed Annie states:

Oh god, you should have seen what I looked like then.

[In the mid-1960s Woody had a relationship with folk singer named Judy Henske, who was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.] Alvy, in voice-over, imagines that she looked like "the wife of an astronaut."

In their second, on-screen flashback merging the past and the present, there was "neat-looking," "emotional," "Jerry the actor" - "I look pretty." An insufferable, bearded Jerry tells a naive and susceptible Annie that he desires death by being "torn apart by wild animals." On screen next to the couple, Alvy makes a mockery of love: "Heavy. Eaten by some squirrels." Jerry drops to his knees and lets Annie touch his heart with her foot. Agreeing that Jerry is "creepy," Alvy thinks she is lucky that he has come along. Annie responds with her trademark expression, "Well, la-dee-dah." Alvy suggests the vivid contrast between their two personalities - an out-of-town, air-headed giggly Annie vs. the serious, humorless, and sophisticated New Yorker Alvy. He comments on the quirks of her speech:

Alvy: If anyone had ever told me that I would be taking out a girl who used expressions like 'la-dee-dah.'
Annie: Oh, that's right. But you really like those New York girls.

The transition affords an opportunity to examine Alvy's second marriage - his failed relationship and sexual problems with another New Yorker. The scene is dealt with in less than three minutes screen-time in another flashback. His second wife was a tense, left-leaning liberal intellectual named Robin (Janet Margolin), with hair up in a bun and large spectacles. In a cocktail party gathering of publishers, name-dropping Robin rushes through while telling Alvy about two celebrity literary professors as she guides him through the room:

Robin: There's Harry Drucker. He has a chair in history at Princeton. Oh, and the short man is Herschel Kominsky. He has a chair in philosophy at Cornell.
Alvy: (quipping) Yeah. Two more chairs they got a dining room set...
Robin: Is that Paul Goodman? No. And be nice to the host because he's publishing my book. Hi, Doug! Douglas Wyatt. 'A Foul Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart.'

But Alvy appears "hostile" and is more interested in watching the New York Knicks on television or "quietly humping" her than mingling with the pseudo-intellectuals representing various scholarly magazines. He quips with a deliberate Freudian-slip about the professions of the fatuous, pretentious guests:

Alvy: I'm so tired of spending evenings making fake insights with people who work for Dysentery.
Robin: Commentary.
Alvy: Oh, really? I heard that Commentary and Dissent had merged and formed Dysentery.

Robin disdains his interest in sports: "What is so fascinating about a group of pituitary cases trying to stuff a ball through a hoop?" Alvy is unable to bear any more academic pretension and favors straight-forward physicality: "What is fascinating is that it's physical. You know, it's one thing about intellectuals. They prove that you can be absolutely brilliant and have no idea what's going on. But on the other hand, the body doesn't lie, as we now know." Robin rebuffs him, believing that he uses his physical urges and "sex to express hostility." Alvy doesn't want to be analyzed psychoanalytically, so he distantly mocks himself:

'Why do you always reduce my animal urges to psychoanalytic categories?' he said as he removed her brassiere.

Many evenings, he and Robin are unable to have successful sex ("the body doesn't lie") due to the noisy city environment. Neurotic and unfulfilled, Robin is unable to successfully have an orgasm because of numerous excuses: "The city can't close down. What are you gonna do? Have 'em shut down the airport too? No more flights so we can have sex." According to her analyst, she is too tense and needs Valiums to calm down from city stresses. Obsessively paranoid and compulsive about the country and moving there to cure Robin's sexual complaints, Alvy delivers a brilliant "I hate the country" speech:

You've got crickets, and there's no place to walk after dinner, and there's the screens with the dead moths behind them, and you got the Manson family possibly, and...

Rising frustrated from their conjugal bed, because she has a bad headache - "like Oswald in Ghosts" [Ghosts is a Henrik Ibsen play, a domestic tragedy set in western Norway with a lead character named Oswald Alving, an artist who likewise suffers from debilitating headaches ("the most violent pains") from venereal disease], Alvy must take "another in a series of cold showers." The word "showers" is a transitionary bridge word to the next scene where Alvy recalls his first meeting with Annie [although in the film, he has already been seen with her].

In a Manhattan sports athletic club, Rob warns Alvy (whom he calls his pet name 'Max' in this scene): "My serve is gonna send you to the showers early." They talk more about Alvy's anti-Semitic paranoia and how people stereotypically view New Yorkers:

Alvy: The failure of the country to get behind New York City is Anti-Semitism.
Rob: Max, the city is terribly run.
Alvy: But I'm not discussing politics or economics. This is foreskin.
Rob: No, no, Max. That's a very convenient out. Every time some group disagrees with you, it's because of Anti-Semitism.
Alvy: Don't you see? The rest of the country looks upon New York like we're Left-Wing, Communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers. I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.

Rob prefers the sunny outdoors lifestyle of California. Alvy disagrees with him:

Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat, college.

When Alvy initially meets Annie in an athletic endeavor, she is part of a doubles group on a tennis court. Facetiously, Alvy proposes that the two men team up against the two women [repressed sexual aggression and tension toward females due to his marital failures in the preceding scenes?]. Rob and Annie play against Alvy and Rob's girlfriend - each of the romantic pairs are on opposite sides of the court. After the game, she wears a distinctively recognizable Charlie Chaplin-like outfit, a mis-matched, eclectic conglomeration of men's costuming: baggy light brown chino pants, an oversized man's white shirt, a dark grey necktie with shiny polka-dot spots, a black waistcoat vest, and a floppy bowler hat [the "Annie Hall" look].

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