We Love … St Valentine: ‘Annie Hall’

We Love... St Valentine

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 steven@filmbase.ie

Now let’s get it on…

Annie Hall

Sarah Griffin

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!

 

 

 

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We Love … St Valentine: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

We Love... Valentine's

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 steven@filmbase.ie

Now let’s get it on…

 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Ciara O’Brien

When asked to write about my all-time-favourite Valentine’s Day movie, there was no doubt in my mind as to what I would choose. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may seem like an odd choice of romantic film to some, but to me there could be no better Valentine’s film. Long before Inception was a glimmer in Nolan’s eye, Michel Gondry climbed into our cerebral cortex’s and took up residence offering his viewers an offbeat love story which stands the test of time.

Kate Winslet gives, what I would say is one of her defining performances. As an audience, we are well used to seeing Winslet as the glamorous woman for whom any man would fall, but here she plays an insecure woman plagued by imperfections who has more whims than hair colours. The star of the show here is Carrey, who takes a tentative step away from comedy and plays an overly serious man, devoid of his usual physical comedy. Here is the beginning of the new Jim Carrey.

What separates Eternal Sunshine… from the barrage of silly romantic comedies starring everyone in Hollywood that we are subjected to each year is that the movie does not paint a picture of perfection in relationships, there is none of the patented happily-ever-after fairytale outcome. What we see in this movie is a skewed and cerebral version of the real-life romances which populate the world. Joel and Clementine meet by chance and fall into the kind of love which is all-consuming until the fine line between love and hate begins to blur and cracks are covered over through Joel’s fear of speaking his mind, and Clementine’s inability to do anything else.

Eternal Sunshine… reveals itself to be the ideal Valentine’s movie for all situations, Kirsten Dunst plays the a-typical young girl with a crush on her superior, whilst it appears that everyone in the world likes her, she has innocent eyes only for her boss. When her own past is uncovered, she herself becomes an important symbol of female empowerment as she makes a stand that is more effective in exploring the power of the single woman than a flash mob of Beyonces in spandex ever could.

Our romantic heroes are far from perfect, yet there is a spark that perforates the screen and the audience find themselves whole-heartedly rooting for the most dysfunctional of couples. Their imperfections however, fit like a glove. Joel’s shyness is offset by Clementine’s brash nature. By the end of the twists and turns in continuity, one thing is certain; we hope that history does not repeat itself in this instance.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is an off-centre and non-linear exploration of love which through hardships and frustration has something which many Valentine’s movies do not, heart. Gondry gives us an emotionally honest exploration of relationships, an inescapable love. If that isn’t Valentine’s Day romance, I don’t know what is. So this Valentine’s Day why not take a different approach and, instead of expecting absolute perfection, take pride and joy in the imperfections we all have, and enjoy the perfection that can be found in finding someone whose imperfections fit yours.

If that’s not your bag, you can always give Dr. Mierzwiak a call and attempt to have the object of your dejection erased, although, as we see here, the mind is a fickle mistress, and absolute satisfaction is not guaranteed.

 

 

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