“Annie Hall” (1977)

By Daniella Nichinson, Staff Writer

“Annie Hall” was the film that began the transition for Woody Allen from slapstick comedy filmmaker to serious filmmaker. It didn’t lose sight of the comedy that Woody had gained fame for, but it added a certain complexity that wasn’t found in his earlier work. The film is one of Woody’s greatest achievements: it is an amusing and oftentimes poignant portrayal of relationships between people and the city that never sleeps.

If you have yet to realize the romance that Woody Allen has with New York City, this is the film to help you do that. He celebrates the nice parts of the city, the parts of the city that he grew up knowing. Every city has its dark side, but Woody does not let us see New York’s because he has never experienced it. He also does well to show why the city triumphs in the “New York vs. Los Angeles” debate. Rob (Tony Roberts), a close friend of Alvy’s, persistently tries to convince him to move with him to L.A., to which Alvy keenly responds, “I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.”

In the opening narration, Alvy introduces us to where he grew up. His house was under a rollercoaster in Coney Island, which he explains is the reason for his nervous personality. Next, we see a young Alvy running on the boardwalk with a sailor, a soldier, an officer, and a lady in red. It paints the picture of a happy childhood. If this were a Scorsese film, we would see dark alleys and streets ridden with drugs. Woody himself has admitted that his depiction and his experiences of New York are not accurate — he only shows one aspect of a city that was, in reality, riddled with crime in the 1970s.

In many of the scenes when Alvy and Annie (Diane Keaton) go on dates, there are beautiful backdrops of the various skylines of New York. One in particular, in which Alvy tells Annie that he has to make up a word for how much he loves her, the sun has just set and we see them in a warm embrace on the pier, with the lit-up Brooklyn Bridge behind them. It showcases the natural allure of New York, the one we all idolize.

To help further advance his argument that New York is the greatest city in the world, as I mentioned before, Woody contrasts it with the city of Los Angeles. When Alvy finally concedes and travels to L.A. with Annie, where Rob is now living, Annie remarks that “it’s so clean out here [Los Angeles].” Alvy, of course, with a quick zinger, replies, “That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away; they turn it into television shows.” Woody also introduces us to the type of people that live in the city of Angels (cue Jeff Goldblum forgetting his mantra), which only helps further our appreciation for New York.

“Annie Hall” is a film to watch for anyone fond of New York. Perhaps it is not the most accurate representation, as we’re only witnesses to its favorable aspects, but it gives us an insight into the type of New York that Woody Allen grew up in and that has influenced his filmmaking. Ultimately, his devotion to the city of New York is admirable and creates a portrait that will immortalize it as an unconditional love affair for all of its inhabitants and dreamers alike.


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