Illustration by Adeline Pericart
Get a bottle of Blue Nun, splash yourself with them cheap Christmas smellies your Auntie got you for Christmas, slip on your Penny’s underwear and turn up the stereo with the sweet, sweet sound of Barry White. And hey, if you have a partner that’s an added bonus. Yes, it’s that time of year, when St. Valentine comes to town. So in his honour the film lovers here at Film Ireland present their favourite lurve-themed films.
We’ll be adding to the list in the run-up to the 14th – check it out here. As always, feel free to add your own favourites. If you’d like to include your own review, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Now let’s get it on…
Alvy Singer… the most likeable of unlikeable movie characters! Oscillating between pessimism and suffering, he stumbles through the darkness of life, occasionally finding hope in the arms of a succession of Gentile women serving as foil to his giant, Jewish brain. Bookended by the ultimate in relationship realism, the film begins and ends with Alvy’s break-up from the most promising of these women – Annie Hall. A frivolous WASPy woman, whose catchphrase ‘Laa-dee-daa’ both enrages and excites Alvy, she meanders through life not thinking too deeply on anything. She meets Alvy, she likes Alvy – for her, that’s enough… but for him, he needs to question every nuance of their relationship, and begins his mission to educate and confuse her.
Annie Hall represents a culmination of Allen’s ideas about the centrality of Jewish humour to a certain type of romantic comedy, which has become a staple movie subgenre – from When Harry Met Sally to Knocked Up. The ’70s realised an epoch of Jewish-American performers let loose from the ties of concealing their ethnic origins, and the bustling metropolis of New York has become intrinsically linked with this, and the persona of Woody Allen – along with the creation of ‘a nervous romance’, as Annie Hall was billed.
For such a perfect movie, it’s hard to believe that it almost fell at the first hurdle. The original ideas for the script revolved much more around the character of Alvy, obsessing on his many neuroses and compulsions, but Annie’s character proved so much of a draw that it eventually became a romance. And it’s easy to see why! Diane Keaton infuses Annie with her own traits and foibles – and, indeed, she had dated Allen before the movie, and he had educated her in dealing with Hollywood and fame. Whilst they were by now friends and contemporaries, it’s easy to read some autobiography into the frame. While Alvy, and Allen himself, is a somewhat odious character, Annie represents the emotional heart of the movie, and her characterisation provided a feminine ideal for late 1970s America. Soon, women all over the country were sporting waistcoats and trilbies, and embracing intellectualism as something that can be lived with alongside a regular life!
They fall in love, they fight, they laugh, they make love, they break up, they get back together, they break up again… and all the while, we are presented with the most realistic depiction of a relationship ever committed to celluloid. Annie’s difference from Alvy’s consummately Jewish character is important in terms of his attraction to her – he is obsessed with death and dying, and she is innocent and playful; together they form a balance for each others’ inadequacies and ineptitudes. Their evolution as characters is realistic and touching – and our initial knowledge of their break-up is tempered by watching their burgeoning romance, and never feels tainted by this understanding. Bookended by the break-up, and by typically Jewish jokes, the ending offers much more satisfaction – with their mature realisation of friendship after romance, and the desolation and loneliness of the beginning is dissipated by their mutual respect and love. One of the greatest marriages of intellect and heart, Annie Hall marks the highest point of romantic comedy – hilarious and tragic, it is also infused with a deep romance that makes it impossible not to like. We see the truth of relationships laid bare – and, like Alvy, we too draw the conclusion that awful and terrible though they might be, depressed though they make us, we all still, essentially, need the eggs!