Writer, director, and producer Richard Curtis discusses Annie Hall and the abiding influence of Woody Allen. He joins Eddie Berg, artistic director of BFI Southbank, at a Screen Epiphany event in partnership with American Express. First seeing Annie Hall at 16, Curtis acquainted himself with Allen just as the director was reconstructing his identity as a filmmaker. He speaks of admiration for the sense of transformation that Annie Hall brings, with Allen moving away from his earlier, purely comic and formless movies towards the more sober and philosophical mood of his work in the 1980s. The output of this seeming transition is widely held as the apotheosis of his work. On the basis of Annie Hall in particular, Curtis cites Allen as the greatest director of comedy since the dawn of colour.
Curtis is clearly a student of Allen and admits the story of Annie Hall's production is a source of optimism in the throes of his own projects. Conceived as 'Anhedonia', an autobiographical murder mystery, the film was refigured in Ralph Rosenblum's editing room to be born again as an oscar winning romantic comedy. To give Allen his due, Rosenblum was simply spinning gold out of gold. It is a jumpy collection of experimental, human, existential, slapstick, heartbreaking and above all, funny sketches that cohere into a perfectly engaging romance.
Berg suggests parallels between the two filmmakers' singular portraits of their home cities and refers to a quote from Philip French that puts Curtis' work in the lineage of Allen's 'relationship movie' descendants. Aside from the borrowing of particular tropes and techniques, Curtis acknowledges that his most obvious debt to Allen is in the confidence it has lent to harvesting his own perspective.
This event was held exclusively for BFI Members and guests, in partnership with American Express.