After a decade of directing and/or writing overtly comedic films, Woody Allen’s fortieth birthday heralded a dramatic gear-change. While Annie Hall offers at least as many laughs as its predecessors, they’re now drawn from the autobiographical roots of Allen’s own anxieties about life and relationships: Diane Keaton, who plays the title character, was once his real-life girlfriend.
The film was originally called Anhedonia – a condition that inhibits the inability to experience pleasure – and that’s Allen’s alter ego Alvy Singer’s problem. Brought up beneath the Coney Island rollercoaster (allegedly, but it’s an eye-catching image), he treats life as though it was a similarly perilous brake-free journey.
Casual asides are deconstructed for latent anti-Semitism, strangers are asked for relationship advice (“We use a large vibrating egg”, recommends an elderly passer-by), lovers are reconciled over a spider in the bathtub panic, and the theorist Marshall McLuhan is spontaneously produced to settle an argument with an annoying pedant.