Still Watching: Two Sides of Early Woody Allen

Still Watching is a weekly examination of old TV shows or films.

This week I chose two films directed by Woody Allen. This was my first time seeing Annie Hall, one of Allen’s most iconic works. Thematically, it was standard fare for Allen. I usually enjoy his “small” storytelling, meaning he doesn’t tell epic stories of kings, but of ordinary people struggling through life, trying to find their way through their neuroses. In Annie Hall, though, Allen is constantly employing techniques such as breaking the fourth wall and speaking straight to the camera, jumping back and forth in time, and using point-of-view shots that seem to have no point whatsoever.

In comparing this 1977 film to Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986), I much prefer the latter. The same basic neuroses exist, but Hannah and Her Sisters offers a more linear and coherent form of storytelling. Perhaps Allen was trying to reflect his own jumbled thoughts by jumbling Annie Hall so much. Was he trying to create a distraction in order to more fully put the audience into his head? If so, it worked well, but at what cost? These methods were so distracting I found myself not caring what he was trying to tell me; he lost me.

In Hannah, Allen’s neuroses drive the narrative in a more effective way. They lead him to questions about the existence of God. As with most of his films, at least the ones I’ve seen, he never reaches any conclusions, but the questions are there, and we can hope that eventually Allen will find the Answer.

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  • Alan Noble

    I enjoyed these two, but Crimes and Misdemeanors is one of my favorite movies.