Note: Anniehallposter // Upper East Side NYC // Woody Allen
Filming, editing and music
Principal photography began on May 19, 1976 on the South Fork of Long Island with the scene in which Alvy and Annie boil live lobsters; filming continued periodically for the next ten months, and deviated frequently from the screenplay. There was nothing written about Alvy's childhood home lying under a roller coaster, but when Allen was scouting locations in Brooklyn with Willis and art director Mel Bourne, he "saw this roller-coaster, and ... saw the house under it. And I thought, we have to use this." Similarly, there is the incident where Alvy scatters a trove of cocaine with an accidental sneeze: although not in the script, the joke emerged from a rehearsal happenstance and stayed in the movie. In audience testing, this laugh was so sustained that a much longer pause had to be added so that the following dialogue was not lost.
Editor Ralph Rosenblum's first assembly of the film in 1976 left Brickman disappointed. "I felt that the film was running off in nine different directions," Brickman recalled. "It was like a first draft of a novel... from which two or three films could possibly be assembled." Rosenblum characterized the first cut, at two hours and twenty minutes, as "the surrealistic and abstract adventures of a neurotic Jewish comedian who was reliving his highly flawed life and in the process satirizing much of our culture... a visual monologue, a more sophisticated and more philosophical version of Take the Money and Run". Brickman found it "nondramatic and ultimately uninteresting, a kind of cerebral exercise." He suggested a more linear narrative.
The present-tense relationship between Alvy and Annie was not the narrative focus of this first cut, but Allen and Rosenblum recognized it as the dramatic spine, and began reworking the film "in the direction of that relationship." Rosenblum recalled that Allen "had no hesitation about trimming away much of the first twenty minutes in order to establish Keaton more quickly." According to Allen, "I didn't sit down with Marshall Brickman and say, 'We're going to write a picture about a relationship.' I mean the whole concept of the picture changed as we were cutting it."
As the film was budgeted for two weeks of post-production photography, late 1976 saw three separate shoots for the final segment, but only some of this material was used. The narration that ends the film, featuring the joke about 'we all need the eggs', was conceived and recorded only two hours before a test screening.
The credits call the film "A Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe Production"; the two men were Allen's managers and received this same credit on his films from 1969 to 1993. However, for this film Joffe took producer credit and therefore received the Academy Award for Best Picture. The title sequence features a black background with white text in the Windsor Light Condensed typeface, a design that Allen would use on his subsequent films. Stig Björkman sees some similarity to Ingmar Bergman's simple and consistent title design, although Allen says that his own choice is a cost-saving device.
Very little background music is heard in the film, a departure for Allen influenced by Ingmar Bergman. Diane Keaton performs twice in the jazz club: "It Had to be You" and "Seems Like Old Times" (the latter reprises in voiceover on the closing scene). The other exceptions include a boy's choir "Christmas Medley" played while the characters drive through Los Angeles, the Molto allegro from Mozart's Jupiter Symphony (heard as Annie and Alvy drive through the countryside), Tommy Dorsey's performance of "Sleepy Lagoon", and the anodyne cover of the Savoy Brown song "A Hard Way to Go" playing at a party in the mansion of Paul Simon's character.
Style and technique
Technically, the film marked an advance for the director. He selected Gordon Willis as his cinematographer—for Allen "a very important teacher" and a "technical wizard," saying, "I really count Annie Hall as the first step toward maturity in some way in making films." At the time, it was considered an "odd pairing" by many, Keaton among them. The director was known for his comedies and farces, while Willis was known as "the prince of darkness" for work on dramatic films like The Godfather. Despite this, the two became friends during filming and continued the collaboration on several later films, including Zelig, which earned Willis his first Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography.
Willis described the production for the film as "relatively easy." He shot in varying styles; "hot golden light for California, grey overcast for Manhattan and a forties Hollywood glossy for ... dream sequences," most of which were cut. It was his suggestion which led Allen to film the dual therapy scenes in one set divided by a wall instead of the usual split screen method. He tried long takes, with some shots, unabridged, lasting an entire scene, which, for Ebert, add to the dramatic power of the film: "Few viewers probably notice how much of Annie Hall consists of people talking, simply talking. They walk and talk, sit and talk, go to shrinks, go to lunch, make love and talk, talk to the camera, or launch into inspired monologues like Annie's free-association as she describes her family to Alvy. This speech by Diane Keaton is as close to perfect as such a speech can likely be ... all done in one take of brilliant brinksmanship." He cites a study that calculated the average shot length of Annie Hall to be 14.5 seconds, while other films made in 1977 had an average shot length of 4–7 seconds. Peter Cowie suggests that "Allen breaks up his extended shots with more orthodox cutting back and forth in conversation pieces, so that the forward momentum of the film is sustained." Bernd Herzogenrath notes the innovation in the use of the split screen during the dinner scene to powerfully exaggerate the contrast between the Jewish and the gentile family.
Although the film is not essentially experimental, at several points it undermines the narrative reality. James Bernardoni notes Allen's way of opening the film by facing the camera, which immediately intrudes upon audience involvement in the film. In one famous scene, Allen's character, in line to see a movie with Annie, listens to a man behind him deliver misinformed pontifications on the significance of Fellini's and Marshall McLuhan's work. Allen pulls McLuhan himself from just off camera to personally correct the man's errors. Later in the film, when we see Annie and Alvy in their first extended talk, "mental subtitles" convey to the audience the characters' nervous inner doubts. An animated scene—with artwork based on the comic strip Inside Woody Allen—depicts Alvy and Annie in the guise of the Wicked Queen from Snow White. Although Allen uses each of these techniques only once, the "fourth wall" is broken several other times when characters address the camera directly. In one, Alvy stops several passers-by to ask questions about love, and in another he shrugs off writing a happy ending to his relationship with Annie in his autobiographical first play as forgivable "wish-fulfillment." Allen chose to have Alvy break the fourth wall, he explained, "because I felt many of the people in the audience had the same feelings and the same problems. I wanted to talk to them directly and confront them."
Love, sexuality, and Jewish identity
Sociologists Virginia Rutter and Pepper Schwartz consider Alvy and Annie's relationship to be a stereotype of gender differences in sexuality. The nature of love is a repeating subject for Allen and co-star Tony Roberts described this film as "the story of everybody who falls in love, and then falls out of love and goes on." Alvy searches for love's purpose through his effort to get over his depression about the demise of his relationship with Annie. Sometimes he sifts through his memories of the relationship, at another point he stops people on the sidewalk, with one woman saying that "It's never something you do. That's how people are. Love fades," a suggestion that it was no one's fault, they just grew apart and the end was inevitable. By the end of the film, Alvy accepts this and decides that love is ultimately "irrational and crazy and absurd", but a necessity of life. Christopher Knight points out that Annie Hall is framed through Alvy's experiences. "Generally, what we know about Annie and about the relationship comes filtered through Alvy, an intrusive narrator capable of halting the narrative and stepping out from it in order to entreat the audience's interpretative favor." He suggests that because Allen's films blur the protagonist with "past and future protagonists as well as with the director himself", it "makes a difference as to whether we are most responsive to the director's or the character's framing of events". Knight believes Alvy's quest upon meeting Annie is carnal, whereas hers is on an emotional note. Despite the narrative's framing, "the joke is on Alvy."
Richard Brody of The New Yorker notes the film's "Eurocentric art-house self-awareness" and Alvy Singer's "psychoanalytic obsession in baring his sexual desires and frustrations, romantic disasters, and neurotic inhibitions". Annie Hall is viewed as the definitive Woody Allen film in displaying neurotic humor. Singer is identified with the stereotypical neurotic Jewish male, and the differences between Alvy and Annie are often related to the perceptions and realities of Jewish identity. Vincent Brook notes that "Alvy dines with the WASP-y Hall family and imagines that they must see him as a Hasidic Jew, complete with payess (ear locks) and a large black hat." Robert M. Seltzer and Norman J. Cohen highlight the scene in which Annie remarks that Annie's grandmother "hates Jews. She thinks they just make money, but she’s the one. Is she ever, I’m telling you.", revealing the hypocrisy in her grandmother's stereotypical American view of Jews by arguing that "no stigma attaches to the love of money in America". Bernd Herzogenrath also considers Allen's joke, "I would like to but we need the eggs", to the doctor at the end when he suggests putting him in a mental institution, to be a paradox of not only the persona of the urban neurotic Jew but also of the film itself.
Emanuel Levy believes that Alvy Singer became synonymous with the public perception of Woody Allen in the United States.
Annie Hall "is as much a love song to New York City as it is to the character," reflecting Allen's adoration of the island of Manhattan. It was a relationship he explored repeatedly, particularly in films like Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986). Annie Hall's apartment, which still exists on East 70th Street between Lexington Avenue and Park Avenue is by Allen's own confession his favorite block in the city. Peter Cowie argues that the film shows "a romanticized view" of the borough, with the camera "linger[ing] on the Upper East Side [... and where] the fear of crime does not trouble its characters." By contrast, California is presented less positively, and David Halle notes the obvious "invidious intellectual comparison" between New York City and Los Angeles. While Manhattan's movie theaters show classic and foreign films, Los Angeles theaters run less-prestigious fare such as House of Exorcism and Messiah of Evil. Rob's demonstration of adding canned laughter to television demonstrates the "cynical artifice of the medium". New York serves as a symbol of Alvy's personality ("gloomy, claustrophobic, and socially cold, but also an intellectual haven full of nervous energy") while Los Angeles is a symbol of freedom for Annie.
Psychoanalysis and modernism
Annie Hall has been cited as a film which uses both therapy and analysis for comic effect. Sam B. Girgus considers Annie Hall to be a story about memory and retrospection, which "dramatizes a return via narrative desire to the repressed and the unconscious in a manner similar to psychoanalysis". He argues that the film constitutes a self-conscious assertion of how narrative desire and humor interact in the film to reform ideas and perceptions and that Allen's deployment of Freudian concepts and humor forms a "pattern of skepticism toward surface meaning that compels further interpretation". Girgus believes that proof of the pervasiveness of Sigmund Freud in the film is demonstrated at the beginning through a reference to a joke in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, and makes another joke about a psychiatrist and patient, which Girgus argues is also symbolic of the dynamic between humor and the unconscious in the film. Further Freudian concepts are later addressed in the film with Annie's recall of a dream to her psychoanalyst in which Frank Sinatra is smothering her with a pillow, which alludes to Freud's belief in dreams as "visual representations of words or ideas".
Peter Bailey in his book The Reluctant Film Art of Woody Allen, argues that Alvy displays a "genial denigration of art" which contains a "significant equivocation", in that in his self-deprecation he invites the audience to believe that he is leveling with them. Bailey argues that Allen's devices in the film, including the subtitles which reveal Annie's and Alvy's thoughts "extend and reinforce Annie Hall 's winsome ethos of plain-dealing and ingenuousness". He muses that the film is full of antimimetic emblems such as Mcluhan's magical appearance which provide quirky humor, and that the "disparity between mental projections of reality and actuality" drives the film. He considers self-reflective cinematic devices to intelligently dramatize the difference between surface and substance, with visual emblems "incessantly distilling the distinction between the world mentally constructed and reality".
In his discussion of the film's relation to modernism, Thomas Schatz finds the film an unresolved "examination of the process of human interaction and interpersonal communication" and "immediately establishes [a] self-referential stance" that invites the spectator "to read the narrative as something other than a sequential development toward some transcendent truth". For him, Alvy "is the victim of a tendency toward overdetermination of meaning -- or in modernist terms 'the tyranny of the signified' -- and his involvement with Annie can be viewed as an attempt to establish a spontaneous, intellectually unencumbered relationship, an attempt which is doomed to failure." Marcus Geduld cites the flashback to Alvy as a child (in a therapist's office with his mother) as an example of basic problems (poverty, discordant parents) being masked by a supposed existential crisis.
Annie Hall was shown at the Los Angeles Film Festival in March 1977, before its official release on April 20, 1977. The film ultimately earned $38,251,425 ($143,228,400 in 2013 dollars) in the United States against a $4-million budget, making it the 11th highest-grossing picture of 1977. On raw figures, it currently ranks as Allen's fourth-highest-grossing film, after Manhattan, Hannah and Her Sisters and Midnight in Paris; when adjusted for inflation, the gross figure makes it Allen's biggest box office hit. It was first released on Blu-ray on January 24, 2012 alongside Allen's 1979 film Manhattan. Both releases include the films' original theatrical trailers.