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domingo, 15 de novembro de 2015
Annie Hall: the funniest screenplay ever written?
As the Writer's Guild of America vote Annie Hall the funniest screenplay ever written, read this appreciation of the film from our archives
Showcasing Woody Allen at the turning point between his early slapstick and the introspection of Interiors (1978) and Stardust Memories (1980), Annie Hall is now widely regarded as the director's signature film.
Bearing this in mind, two things about it are immediately surprising. One: it doesn't feature its auteur in romantic pursuit of a girl half his age. And two: its lack of structure. Even by Allen's standards, the plot seems flippant: Wisconsin girl "who grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting" (Diane Keaton's Hall) comes to Manhattan, meets homegrown Jewish intellectual comedian (Alvy Singer – Allen in everything but name), becomes more cultured and dumps comedian, moves to LA, almost gets back together with comedian; er, the end.
You'd call Annie Hall the first-ever romcom if it had any kind of dramatic tension, but even Allen's earlier laugh riots (1972's Play It Again, Sam, say) have more narrative build-up. Instead, the baggy, chronologically scrambled story of Hall and Singer's love affair merely serves as an excuse for an indiscriminate series of Allen's best comic lines. There's the one about cheating on his metaphysics exam ("I looked into the soul of the boy next to me"), the one about masturbation ("Don't knock it; it's sex with someone I love") and the one about good sex ("The most fun I've had without laughing"). It makes for a uniquely chatty film, unashamedly autobiographical and full of shrugging insights on love, metropolitan life and the East Coast-West Coast divide.
Its influence has been relentless in middle-to-highbrow American cinema – not least in When Harry Met Sally. It's perhaps small-screen life, however, that Annie Hall has done most to alter the course of. Would the characters of Friends talk of relationship etiquette as astutely as they do without its influence? Would Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David have the audacity to make sitcoms that are essentially – brilliantly – about nothing? It's unlikely.