Monday, March 29, 2010

1977: Annie Hall (Woody Allen)

1977: Annie Hall (Woody Allen)
I really don't know this film that well.  In fact, I think I've only seen it once.  As is probably clear by now, I usually privilege dramas over comedies.  They're the type of films that affect me most and the kinds of films I'm interested in making right now.  All this to say, please excuse me for writing a less detailed piece for this year.  

What I can say though about Annie Hall is that it certainly features one of Allen's sharpest scripts, some of his most memorable characters, and a certain breeziness to the depth that keeps it all running forward at a great clip.  I mentioned awhile back while writing on Allen's film, Broadway Danny Rose, that he deserves more credit for his formal experimentation.  Although his reputation might be mostly as a simple comic filmmaker, his movies are always of a certain narrative complexity and feature bold formal experiments.  Here these come mostly in the form of flashbacks where Allen inserts himself in frame as he analyzes the events that lead to later dysfunction.

Allen continues to be a major source of inspiration for me, less as a filmmaker, more as a craftsman.  He's been able to create the most liberated system of working of anyone in American cinema.  He can make movies whenever he'd like, and it seems with whomever he'd like to do them.  Any day watching one of his films is a good day.  And I look forward to many more moments with this one.  

Other contenders for 1977:  I still have some titles I need to see from this year.  These include:  Fred Zinnemann's Julia, Martin Scorsese's New York, New York, Wim Wenders' The American Friend, Andrzej Wajda's Man of Marble, Paul Verhoeven's Soldier of Orange, Sidney Lumet's Equus, Alain Resnais' Providence, Ridley Scott's The Duellists, Robert Altman's 3 Women, Hans-Jurgen Syberberg's Hitler, A Film from Germany, Jean Eustache's Une Sale Histoire, and Robert Bresson's The Devil, Probably.  I really like Luis Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire.  And my closest runner-up is Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep.

7/8/11 I watched Martin Scorsese's New York, New York.  I'm not sure Minnelli is properly cast, and Scorsese definitely could have gained by cutting this one down.  But there are some very fine De Niro moments, and Minnelli's "But The World Goes 'Round" is quite memorable.  

10/27/11 I watched John Badham's Saturday Night Fever.  Iconic but also much more than most people remember. Incredibly exuberant whenever someone is dancing, also troubling, disturbing, and challenging in ways that Hollywood no longer dares to be.  And Travolta is simply fantastic.  

10/20/12 I watched George Roy Hill's Slap Shot.  A messy, irreverent sports film very much of the seventies.  Lacks the incredible footage and dramatic arc of the very best sports movies but that isn't its ambition either.  The Hanson brothers are one of cinema's great creations and spark the screen whenever they are around.  Otherwise though I just found it an okay document from its era.

10/22/12 I watched Michael Ritchie's Semi-Tough.  Just a mess, in my opinion.  A nice snapshot of the era, but so meandering, ironic, and uncommitted to any kind of narrative drive that it ends up unraveling more than anything.

1/13/14 I watched Mark Cousins' The Story of Film: The Odyssey: The Arrival of Multiplexes and Asian Mainstream.  Of particular interest was how Cousins' documented Hong Kong cinema - I will have to seek out films by King Hu and Tsui Hark.  And then I also was interested by Gulzar and the films Sholay and The Sparrow.

11/13/16 I watched Robert Altman's 3 Women.  The most obtuse Altman film I have seen to date and in fact I can't say I even fully understand what Altman was looking to do.  What I did appreciate was its acute study of Duvall and Spacek's characters as they move through many different emotional territories, almost growing and shrinking at different times (as all of us do) in front of our eyes.  

11/19/16 I watched John Cassavetes' Opening Night.  There can be an element so dour that pervades some of Cassavetes' work and this is no exception.  Everything is so unglamorous from the locations to the wardrobe from the framing to the set design, Cassavetes seems intent on revealing the underbelly of the business.  It is a rough ride that never fully transcended its bleakness for me.  

7/6/17 I watched Robert Aldrich's The Choirboys.  Nothing memorable but, towards the end, does have some of Aldrich's special toughness and unsettling darkness.  

7/27/17 I watched Lewis Gilbert's The Spy Who Loved Me.  Jaws is memorable as are a few of the scenes with Curt Jurgens but lacks the narrative drive of the best Bond films.

9/30/17 I watched Werner Herzog's Stroszek.  One of my favorite feelings as a cinephile is finding a film by a director whose work I only partially know and being inspired to track down the rest of their films.  Not only did Stroszek make me want to watch the rest of Herzog that I haven't seen yet but also get on a path to completion for Fassbinder.  Stroszek had so many things that I like but in particular I was moved by the emotiveness of Bruno S., the raw painterly quality of the camerawork, and the fact that it seemed a missing predecessor for a number of 80s movies I like a great deal including Stranger Than Paradise and the first two Leos Carax features.  And the final ten minutes have to go down as one of the greatest in the history of the medium.  They had the silent power of Anotonioni's The Passenger and embodied the absurd freewheeling nature of early Dylan better than any movie I have ever seen.

4/4/20 I watched Robert Bresson's Le diable probablement.  One of the remaining Bresson features I had yet to see.  Once again, Bresson impresses with his rigor and rhythm.  Not a movement out of place and every cut in sync with some atypical metronomic beat that is deeply his own.  Bresson grapples with action, love, enjoyment and life in what might be a world without meaning or purpose.  The strong blacks in almost every frame suggest a darkness that potentially threatens all existence while its bleakness brings forth memories of Carax's Boy Meets Girl.

10/8/20 I watched Dario Argento's Suspiria.  It's the first Argento film I've seen and I think one of the ones with the biggest reputation.  It's creepy with some viscerally affecting moments and an effectively expressive art design.  I can see where some of his work might have inspired De Palma or even Lynch but all in all not really my taste.

11/22/20 I watched Abbas Kiarostami's The Report.  I have watched all of his work in chronological order up to this point, and it's really the first of his films where it is difficult to discern "the Kiarostami style."  It is an interesting character study, but mostly missing is a formal rigor and a certain softness of touch.  

3/26/24 I watched Wim Wenders' The American Friend.  Although it has been some time since I have rewatched them, a couple of his previous films, Alice in the Cities and Kings of the Road, stand as two of my favorite of the entire decade.  This film, though beautiful to look at, shot by the incomparable Robby Muller, was just a long, difficult slog.  


  1. Yes, Jeffrey, ANNIE HALL, by any barometer of measurement is one of the Woodman's greatest films, and it's the one that boasts perfect chemistry among it's stars. It's a philosophically upbeat film for so many unforgettable moments, including that early scene with his father under the roller coaster. My own #1 id one of the cinema's avante garde masterworks. But yes, KILLER OF SHEEP is just about as great.

    My Own #1 Film of 1977:

    Hitler: A Film from Germany (Syberberg; Germany)


    Killer of Sheep (Barnett; USA)
    Annie Hall (Allen; USA)
    Beauty's Exotic Dance: Torture! (Tanaka; Japan)
    Soldier of Orange (Verhoeven; Holland)
    Man of Marble (Wajda; Poland)
    New York New York (Scorsese; USA)
    Iphigenia (Cacoyannis; Greece)
    Julia (Zinnemann; USA)

  2. Jeffrey,

    The chemistry between Allen and Keaton is magical. I have compared them in the past as a neurotic version of Tracy and Hepburn. Over all, I am missing quite a few important films from 1977, so my list is relatively short.

    # 1 Annie Hall

    Best of the Rest
    New York, New York
    The Late Show

  3. Sam, great to hear from you. I love what you say with regards to ANNIE HALL, that it's "a philosophically upbeat film". I think that's a great way of explaining a large part of its charm and appeal.

    Thanks, Sam. Always a treat to have you here!

  4. John, great to hear from you! I think that comparison of Allen/Keaton and Tracy/Hepburn is quite apt and interesting to consider.

    I also have quite a few gaps to fill. And from your list, I still need to see THE LATE SHOW, too.

    Thanks, John. Always great having you here!

  5. "Any day watching one of his films is a good day."

    Beautifully put Jeffrey. I feel the same way and this one will always be one of my favorites.

  6. Thanks so much, Jeremy! I love this one, too.

    Always great to hear from you and congrats on the book. That's very exciting news!

  7. I second ANNIE HALL in what I feel is an otherwise down year in comparison to those around it. But Annie Hall is always a treat, as is any top-flight Woody Allen!

  8. Dave, your piece is absolutely great on this film. Awesome to know we're on the exact same page here.

    Thanks, Dave. Always wonderful to have your perspective!

  9. I agree that ANNIE HALL is an extraordinary film in many ways, but what is also astonishing is how it developed from its original inception, and the various hands that worked to its final form. I highly recommend Ralph Rosenblum's book on editing (the title escapes me at the moment) to see first-hand what was discovered in post by Allen and others, and the genius of Allen's vision and foresight in the editing room to refashion the story and characters and change a relatively melancholy story about one man's inability to enjoy himself to a joyous and melancholy love story with two equally strong romantic leads.

  10. Anonymous, thank you so much for your great comments! I have heard of that book and need to have a look. I hear it's pretty amazing how much of the final film came together during the edit.

    Great to hear from you!

  11. Henry Jagloms Tracks which I watched for the first time a few weeks ago is fantastic.Needs to be in the top films of that year. Clever script about a solider transporting his dead friend who served with him in the vietnam war on board a train and the affects on of war on the mental condition i.e shell shock. Dennis Hopper who gives a very sensitive performance then he was usual to. Also the use of the main characters personal radio is used to great affect to similar to the main character of a James Tobacks Fingers a film made a year later.

  12. Great comment on Tracks. It is actually a film, not only that I have never seen but I have never ever heard of it. I will make a point to run it down. Thanks so much for putting it on my radar.