December 20, 2005

Character development in the movie "Annie Hall."

John -- my son John Althouse Cohen -- opines:
Annie Hall likes to get high when they have sex and Woody Allen -- or Alvy Singer -- doesn't like that. That's the most character development there is in the movie.


price said...

He's pretty much right about that. I'm a little baffled by how people so revere Annie Hall. Maybe it's that the surrealist sketch comedy interludes were ahead of their time? Watching it now, though, it doesn't really stack up as a romantic story or as a comedy. Sort of like how The Exorcist and Psycho aren't scary at all anymore.

That said, is a lack of character development a shortcoming in a movie? I don't think so, and I'm wary of people who insist upon it.

John Althouse Cohen said...

That said, is a lack of character development a shortcoming in a movie? I don't think so

I agree. Annie Hall is one of my favorite movies. Pointing out that Annie Hall has a lack of character development is like pointing out that a Charlie Chaplin movie has a lack of sound. It's just a fact about the movie; whether the movie is actually good is a separate question.

mzn said...

How does John define character development? Is it any part of a film that tells us new things about a character? By that definition the film is chock full of character development. For instance, think of all the things we learn about both Alvy and Annie by their visit to Annie's family home. Another: the scene in which they make flirtatious chitchat and we see their thoughts in subtitles. Think about the scene of Annie driving. Or the sequence in which Alvy goes to L.A. and rants and raves about California. All of these scenes tell us something interesting about one or more characters.

Perhaps John means characters changing over time? Annie changes in various ways over the course of the film as she falls in and out of love with Alvy. Alvy grows up and goes through a series of relationships with women. He learns something about himself and his need for love.

I disagree that lack of character development is a "fact" about Annie Hall. I need more of an argument to convince me of this.

me said...

Parts of the movie don't hold up so well, but the very end still works. As far as Woody Allen movies go, there is probably as much character development as any other. Annie Hall, the character, certainly leaves an impression, But who knows why? Maybe it is simply Diane Keaton.

I think the movie is more about the cycle of relationships, and looking back at ex's.

chuck b. said...

I guess I should see Annie Hall if I'm going to read Althouse. It comes up a lot, doesn't it? I feel left out.

I've seen many (most?) Woody Allen movies (Interiors is my favorite; in fact, I own it on DVD), but I've never seen Annie Hall.

I even dressed up as Annie Hall with my English teacher in high school on "twins day". It was her idea. I said "sure!" There's a picture of me in the yearbook dressed as Annie Hall.

This is my Annie Hall comment on a blog called Althouse.

Palladian said...

It is not one of his best. It lacks a cohesive structure. You know, you get the feeling that he's not absolutely sure what it is he wants to say. Of course, I've always felt he was essentially a technical film maker. Granted, Manhattan was a great film. Great in its use of negative energy more than anything else. But that simple cohesive core ... Like all that Shadows and Fog or Crimes and Misdemeanors, I found it incredibly ... indulgent. You know, he really is. He's one of the most indulgent film makers. He really is...

Mark Daniels said...

'Annie Hall' is sort of 'When Harry Met Sally' without the happy ending.

My suspicion is that Allen and Keaton played exaggerated versions of themselves and their relationship. That, of course, is like what is done with characters that appear in sketch comedy, whether the characters being spoofed are the actors themselves or others.

Favorite moment in the movie: When Marshall McLuhan, standing in line at a theater, I think, corrects some fathead who misrepresents his theories. Allen looks into the camera and asks if the viewer didn't wish that happened in real life.

It's been at least a decade since I've seen 'Annie Hall' and I'm sure that was the only time since first seeing it in theatrical release. But I liked it both times. I doubt that had much to do with its surrealism, as one commenter has suggested. That touch was fairly old hat by then...remember, 'A Hard Day's Night,' filled with delightful surrealistic moments, came out a decade before 'Annie Hall.' My guess is that, at least among males my age back in the days of its release, its appeal was (and perhaps remains) all about Diane Keaton and her winsome quirkiness.

Mark Daniels

Eli Blake said...

I enjoyed the movie when I first saw it, many years ago.

However, I have chosen to boycott Woody Allen as my way of protesting the way he treated Mia Farrow (a classy lady if ever there was one) and his own daughter (he's lucky she was just past her eighteenth birthday when he began their 'affair,' --or maybe it was more than luck).

bill said...

Comment that creeped me out: chuck b:I even dressed up as Annie Hall with my English teacher in high school on "twins day". It was her idea. I said "sure!"

It was her idea.

Not meant to cast aspersions or rumors towards Chuck b., just pointing out what I found so creepy.

Michael H said...

The only thing I ever think of when I hear about Annie Hall is the foolishness of the Academy. From 1977, the year Star Wars was released? One left people in awe, created millions of fans that could then enjoy the following two sequels and be horribly disappointed by dreck Lucas foisted off over the last three films, had numerous ripple effects on filmmaking, and is still viewed by millions of people each year. The other is still enjoyed by Woody Allen's dozens of fans. And yet, which one did the Academy consider best picture of 1977?

Palladian said...

michael h: One was a highly original collage of sophisticated comedic scraps that somehow adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

The other was ripped off from a Kurosawa movie.

chuck b. said...

Bill: You made me splatter a mouthfull of twea all over the papers on my desk.

I'm glad I peeked back into the comments on this post... I don't always do that.

It's so funny to imagine that particular high school teacher propositioning me sexually I can't even begin to tell you. And I won't.

Very funny!

StrangerInTheseParts said...

John's comment leaves me baffled. Sounds like a trupmted up way of just saying he didn't like the movie. Which, as most commenters here have said, is not hard to do - - it's a slapdash film.

But as MZN points out - the whole film is nothing but character observations. And if by development you mean a change or arc, that is fulfilled as well. You watch Annie go from the clumsy, big tie wearing, self-effacing girl he meets playing tennis, to a nightclub singer and semi-groupie of Paul Simon, to a camouflage fatigue wearing pseudo-marxist, to a fairly sensible and balanced person at the end who knows not to get all tangled up with Alvy again. The movie is about how she gets, to some degree, grounded.

It may not be a great film, or to some people's taste, but it certainly has plenty of character, and not insginificant character developement.

Wade_Garrett said...

John - I agree with you. I think that Annie is developed a little bit more than you do, but I agree that she's less developed than most people seem to give the movie credit for.

Annie Hall is one of my favorite movies; it was the second VHS tape I bought and the first DVD I ever bought. Its hilarious, the cinematography and overall look of the movie are gorgeous, and the episodic nature of the movie really works to its benefit, and it has one of the best bittersweet endings I've ever seen.

Allen intended to make a different movie entirely, named after a psychological condition, I forget its name, in which its impossible to feel happiness. It was a movie about Alvy Singer. After watching it, Allen and his editor tore it apart and reassembled it in a totally different way, made it more about Annie than about Alvy, re-shot a couple of scenes to make it flow better, and released it. That, in part, explains why its so episodic, but I'm amazed at what they were able to put together.

John Althouse Cohen said...

eli said: I have chosen to boycott Woody Allen as my way of protesting the way he treated Mia Farrow (a classy lady if ever there was one) and his own daughter

And what about Mozart? You don't want to leave out Mozart, while you're trashing people. I've stopped listening to Mozart to protest the fact that he cheated on his wife.

stranger said: John's comment leaves me baffled. Sounds like a trupmted up way of just saying he didn't like the movie.

Well, I'm sorry that you don't believe me that it's one of my favorite movies. Maybe another analogy will explain it: some of my favorite photographs are completely lacking in color. That doesn't matter to me, because I like black and white photographs. Some of my favorite movies (Annie Hall, Zazie dans le Metro, Duck Soup) are lacking in character development.

To those who have pointed out that there is some character development in the movie: I know that. I am aware that Annie is bashful and sweet for a lot of the movie and has some later scenes where she's suddenly assertive and defiant. As character development goes, I think that's pretty contrived. I just think the movie is so hilarious, original, and touching that it doesn't really matter that the plot and character development are kind of flat.

EMC said...

Reading these comments .... I wish I had a large sock filled with horse manure.

Ron said...

John: If you've stopped listening to Mozart because he cheated on his wife, you shouldn't watch Duck Soup; back in the '20's the lads had an abortion fund amongst themselves rather than try and figure out who got whom pregnant...which included married women.

Ann Althouse said...

"after a psychological condition, I forget its name"


nichole said...

I just find I can't enjoy it if I think someone, somewhere is saying "Chippewaw Falls, Wesconsin."

StrangerInTheseParts said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Palladian said...

I love the movie.

"You don't want to leave out Mozart, while you're trashing people"

Nice "Manhattan" reference!

StrangerInTheseParts said...

John -

I still don't hear what you mean about lack of character developement...Annie's change from shy to more confident is hardly abrubt/contrived - we watch it happen as Woody shleps her to serious films (Sorrow and the Pity), encourages her singing, and then her continuing ed classes.

That's not contrived - that's how people grow in relationships - their partners bring out new sides of them and they find themselves a little.

It's ALVY whose character doesn't develop - that's anhedonia. And that contrast is the movie's main theme - he plays henry higgins to her eliza doolittle, and in the end she grows and he stays neurotic.

If you don't agree with this - what about the film do you find 'touching'???

Wade_Garrett said...

Ann - yup, that's it!

In Annie Hall, Alvy says that he can't be happy as long as he knows that somebody, somewhere is suffering, and yet when Annie's brother, the Christopher Walken character, reveals to Alvy that he's in real psychological pain, Alvy just makes fun of him and leaves the room. I don't know how much that scene reveals about Allen himself . . . but the scene where he's crining in the passenger seat is hilarious! That's why I love Annie Hall; it has a lot of comedy about serious subjects, but avoids easy laughs.

Charlie Eklund said...

Personally, I'm sad about the development of the character Woody Allen plays in his movies. That character started out as a neurotic, very funny intellectual who was very amusing in describing life in New York CIty. The character has developed into nothing more than a totally self-absorbed whiner who thinks he's better ("artists don't have to live by the same rules everyone else does") than the rest of us.

Very disappointing.

LarryK said...

I agree that some of Annie Hall is dated, but worse than Star Wars? Come on! Even though it was pleasant enough at the time, a good argument can be made that Star Wars was the worst movie of the last 30 years - maybe of all time. The juvenile, comic book nature of today's cinema results, in large part, from the Star Wars phenomenon. I hate the Academy Awards but, in this case, I have to say that the fullness of time has revealed that "the Academy" got this one right.

Slac said...

Hmm, that's around the time I stopped watching it because it was getting pretty boring.

I had heard all the jokes before, so the only reason to watch it was to finally find out where all these jokes came from.

Chuck said...

Happy New Year to you!