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UNIVERSIDADE DE SO PAULO FACULDADE DE FILOSOFIA, LETRAS E CINCIAS HUMANAS

Wanderley Corino Nunes Filho

7192936

Woody Allen's Annie Hall criticism: multiple attempts to apprehend its modern structure.

Professor: Marcos Cesar de Paula Soares.

SAO PAULO AUGUST 2013

Hell is other people! wrote Sartre in his play No exit1 once and it became faded to be promiscuously used in a wide range of contexts. By saying that in an essay who intends to discuss some of the critical fortune regarding Woody Allen's Annie Hall, I allow myself to investigate the self-consciousness of the main character as a maturation process. A naive interpretation just by judging the movie's title would lead one to believe that Annie Hall (Diane Keaton's character) is likely to conduct our attention throughout the plot. The funny thing about it is that by observing the narrative organization, it is the character-narrator who takes over the spotlight. Alvy Singer (written, directed, played and in a way influenced by Woody Allen biography) is the one who is going to guide the viewer throughout the narrative. In order to be accurate, I mean that is the Alvy-narrator who is taking the viewer by the hand. It must be said that the present paper will take into account some critiques in order to not only highlight some important aspects but also bring to light other questions that were neglected by the critics. Saying that Allen's aforementioned movie has got profound marks of modernity in its narrative structure is quite stating the obvious. Girgus on Desire and Narrative in Annie Hall spends a great deal of words to contextualize what he calls an absence of a rigid pattern (GIRGUS, 2002, p. 45) in order to indicate a dislocation of the order of events to which a story refers (Ibidem). Concerning this subject, his best collaboration would lie on terms of emphasizing the desire to narrate as a parallel for dreams. In stark contrast to Girgus shallow reflexion, Schatz analyzes it as process of producing and conveying messages (SCHATZ, 2006, p. 126) According to him, as the narrative focus relies on the how over the what (Ibidem), such stances as irony and ambiguity should not be interpreted as unmotivated or isolated gags. In other words, the Alvynarrator is counting on the viewers' ability to construct a sense out of it by articulating fragments of reality. It would be needless to say that Annie Hall does not follow a pattern a classical drama. However, in order to understand how a subtle message is conveyed through other means, the viewers are invited by Alvy to adopt a modernist perspective, a self-conscious attitude toward Allen and his narrative (POGEL, 1987, p. 83) Taking for granted that Alvy's first i and last lineii directed to the audience are situated at the same chronological time, they synthesize two major keys to apprehend the movie: the ending is already delivered (lack of an ordinary climax) and his bittersweet relation to the split (the act of reconstructing his involvement with Mrs. Hall is ultimately Alvy's tentative of moving forward). As the movie is nothing but an
1 Sartre, Jean-Paul. No Exit. http://archive.org/stream/NoExit/NoExit_djvu.txt. (25 Aug. 2013).

investigation of loss, it makes more sense to construct a parallel to Pogel's words as the film is both an autopsy and a reminiscence (Ibidem, p. 86). Its investigation fosters to identify the symptoms that would indicate when their love died. Again: as Annie Hall tells us more about Alvy, his skepticism towards relationship echoes incessantly. We have the indication it comes from his early age with the fear of death or even an imminence of change. Having said that, it seems necessary to analyze the behavior of the two main characters. A priori, there seems to be an inversion. Annie achieves intellectual maturity by having Alvy as a sort of mentor. Besides, her emotional independence comes from breaking up with him. When it comes to Alvy's perspective, sometimes it seems he has got a flatter path guided by insecurity. In a way, it reflects on his sharps comments toward the professor who is standing behind him on a movie theater line. It is important to bare in mind its intrinsic connection to cultural alienation. Or should we call it an offense toward pretentious speech? Either way, when it is confronted to Alvy and Annie very first chat around photography, as he is trying to make a good impression on her, a meaningless torrent of words comes out of his mouth. By doing so, the Alvy-narrator as a more mature version of himself is able to look back and interpret the past: the result is a relativization. Even Annie's family becomes a target of his acid criticism. As Girgus pointed out, the screen division contrasts Alvy's family to Annie's and causes an effect of detachment. It is important to mention that Girgus seems incapable of looking into Hall family. Over lunch time, Mom and Dad Hall's talk is nothing more about ordinary subject. Annie's brother named Duane (Christopher Walken's character) is only given a voice in a very private conversation with Alvy in order to make a confession around a polemic topic, because he believes that as an artist, I think you'll understand.It may sound as a perspective that sees those who are fond of art as sensitive and understandable person. Ironically, Alvy's line goes against the expected: Right. Tsch, well, I have to-I have t-o go now, Duane, because I-I'm due back on the planet earth.2 Other stances in Annie Hall dealt with the analytic posture intrinsic to comedy. In order to apprehend the ironic layer of the narrative, it is necessary to make clear some suggestive signs. It was suggested on Yacowar's paper that Diane Keaton and Woody Allen were in a subtle reworked manner playing their own roles since it is tempting to take this film as Allen's autobiography (YACOWAR, 1991, p. 172) taking into account that Allen and Keaton were lovers and then broke up, that Keaton was born
2 Allen, Woody. Annie Hall. http://wiscreenwritersforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Annie-Hall.pdf. (25 Aug. 2013).

Diane Hall (Ibidem). However, Yacowar used that piece of information without a proper context. Or what Yacowar is trying to do is persuade (through a perlocutionary act, using Austin terminology) his readers that this material is problematic and utterly relevant for the plot itself. What Allen's attitude (writer and director, in other words) reiterates is that he has got the power to control and tell a story through art form by freely using its tools. He blurs the distinction between fiction and art (POGEL, 1987, p.89) to create a comic effect. What the aforementioned critics seemed to ignore was the ingenious joke around The Godfather. At the beginning of the film, there is a scene in which Alvy is waiting for his girlfriend in front of a movie theater. Pogel briefly mentions that two overanxious autograph seekers () impose themselves on Alvy's private memories, reminding him of characters from The Godfather; they are played by actors who actually had bit parts in Coppola's film (Ibidem, p. 88). Pogel ignores that the irony lies more on the subsequent Annie's line, since not only Rick Petrucelli played Lou (aka Man in passenger seat) but also Diane Keaton played Kay Adams-Corleone in the same film: ALVY Bad mood? I'm standing with the cast of "The Godfather." ANNIE You're gonna hafta learn to deal with it.3 Hence, this distortion signalizes again that we are watching a film (POGEL, 1987, p. 88); it is a profound re-elaboration in which by an ironic interrelationship among author, narrator, and character (SCHATZ, 2006 p. 125) instead of a mere autobiography. In that sense, the comic tone works just fine with the self-reflexive modern structure in order to foment a transcendent truth (SCHATZ, ibidem p.126). It all comes back full circle by baring in mind the disruption of the autonomy of the hermetic world (SCHATZ, ibidem p.128) and Alvy's tentative of expurgation. Bittersweet memories or a feeling for burden of history (POGEL, 1987 p.83): no matter how we refer to Alvy's posture by telling his story because it will not change the fact that the narrator is making a step toward a cathartic effect. It is meaningful that the red light (Don't walk) gives way to the green light (Walk) just like Alvy wends his way at the ending scene as he sets free from a hellish state of mind.
3 Allen, Woody. Annie Hall. http://wiscreenwritersforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/Annie-Hall.pdf. (25 Aug. 2013).

APPENDIX i Annie and I broke up and I-I still can't get my mind around that. You know, I-I keep sifting the pieces of the relationship through my mind and and examining my life and tryin' to figure out where did the screw-up come, you know, and a year ago we were... tsch, in love. ii After that it got pretty late. And we both hadda go, but it was great seeing Annie again, right? I realized what a terrific person she was and and how much fun it was just knowing her and I-I thought of that old joke, you know, this- this-this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, "Doc, uh, my brother's crazy. He thinks he's a chicken." And, uh, the doctor says, "Well, why don't you turn him in?" And the guy says, "I would, but I need the eggs." Well, I guess that's pretty much how how I feet about relationships. You know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and... but, uh, I guess we keep goin' through it because, uh, most of us need the eggs.

APPENDIX

REFERENCES Austin, John L. (1962). How to Do Things with Words. Harvard University Press. Allen, Woody. Annie Hall. http://wiscreenwritersforum.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/08/Annie-Hall.pdf. (25 Aug. 2013). Girgus, Sam B. (2002) Desire and Narrativity in Annie Hall. The Films of Woody Allen. Cambridge University Press. Pogel, Nancy. (1987). The Little Man's Screwball Comedy. Woody Allen. Boston: Twayne Publisher. Sartre, Jean-Paul. No Exit. http://archive.org/stream/NoExit/NoExit_djvu.txt. (25 Aug. 2013). Schatz, Thomas. (2006). Annie Hall and the Issue of Modernism. Silet, Charles L. P. (ed.). The Films of Woody Allen. The Scarecrow Press. Yacowar, Maurice. (1991). Annie Hall. Loser Takes All. The Comic Art of Woody Allen. New Expanded Edition. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company.