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MGM Studios DVD presents
Annie Hall (1977)

Alvy's psychiatrist: How often do you sleep together?
Annie's psychiatrist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy: Hardly ever...maybe 3 times a week.
Annie: Constantly, I'd say 3 times a week.

- [presented in split screen]

Review By: debi lee mandel   
Published: July 01, 2000

Stars: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Other Stars: Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon
Director: Woody Allen

MPAA Rating: PG
Run Time: 01h:33m:00s
Release Date: July 05, 2000
UPC: 027616655929
Genre: romantic comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+B-A- C

DVD Review

In his much-acclaimed romantic comedy Annie Hall, Allen sheds the clownpaint of his previous screen persona and bares himself as Manhattanite Alvy Singer who wears his psyche like a wound oozing through his sleeve. Alvy has loved and lost Annie Hall, a reticent midwestern girl who evolves through the long course of their relationship into a mature, self-confident woman. Does Alvy change? Has he ever changed? He attempts in retrospect to dissect the experience to understand it, understand Annie, and ultimately (and continuously) himself.

Woody Allen takes us inside his head as he explores, for himself, his own neuroses. But we are only bystanders—if any one of us could actually answer his question "Where did I go wrong?", he'd find a way to prove our theories wrong. It's how he is. It's how Alvy Singer is.

As any good neurotic knows, the only way to sort out our internal labyrinthine dialogue is to hear them, see them outside ourselves. What is romantically considered "the muse" is in actuality a survival mechanism that drives us to create a personal symbology in an attempt to understand ourselves: van Gogh painted his madness, Kafka drew rich and hideous metaphors to release his nightmares, and Woody steps outside of himself to hear himself think.

Allen takes us through Alvy's psycho-journey using hilarious and divergent devices. Scattered throughout his non-linear storyline are cinematic gems—surreallistic sequences in which he sets his characters in their own pasts, to revisit and review what occurred—as well as outrageous narratives and subtle cues. He constantly breaks the 4th wall, either directly (as in the opening monologue) or as a sotto voce, mid-scene. Annie and Alvy's first endearingly real conversation, out on her balcony, is ingenious: the ever precocious Allen provides us with subtitles for their thoughts while their mouths awkwardly ramble on—sheer movie magic. And I feel compelled to tease those who have not yet seen this by mentioning that this film includes the most famous sneeze ever captured on the silver screen.

I don't believe there had ever been anything quite like it when Annie Hall first hit the screen. The natural, conversational dialogue flows so flawlessly we don't recognize it as "enhanced"—in some instances as they talk over and around each other, it is difficult to imagine these lines were actually scripted. And although we walk away with a hundred new punchlines in our heads, we realize they are NOT one-liners but masterfully crafted crescendos, dependent upon the previous three minutes or so of dialogue. Brilliant.

Both Keaton and Allen developed unique screen personalities in this film that have been copied and re-rendered by countless actors in soon-forgotten movies since. There was even the craze of the "Annie Hall" style that followed for several years, which I remember as a refreshing counterbalance to the disco polyester of Saturday Night Fever (premiering the same year). But these two were so fresh and original and un-selfconscious that it is a phenomenon that we can only revisit by viewing Annie Hall again and again. Now that I own it, I will and will.

Annie Hall won 4 out of the 5 Academy Awards® for which it was nominated, and was recently voted #4 in the American Film Institute's top 100 comedies. Diane Keaton is delightfully natural and peculiar; Allen has never been more charming or sincere. And the real star, their fragile relationship, is so intricate, honest and familiar we might almost wince at the levity by which it is portrayed. Who else but Woody could pull this off without tear-jerking sentimentality? It is only through Keaton's songs that we recognize his bittersweet regret, and through the flashbacks at the end we understand that we, like Alvy, like Woody, just needed to see it all one more time before letting go.

This is an American tour-de-force that earns all of the accolades it has received over time in every line, every humorous tickle to sidesplitting laugh.... Woody knew he was on to something and has continued to explore this venue ever since. There are those who miss his old gags, and astonishingly there are those who do understand him and dismiss him—the all-too-common sign of a great auteur.

Did I mention that Paul Simon and Jeff Goldblum cut their teeth on this set? Or that small parts and cameos are graced by Carol Kane, Colleen Dewhurst, Shelley Duvall, and the zero-to-60mph joke delivered impeccably by Christopher Walken?

I just can't say enough about this film.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.66:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - P&S
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicnono


Image Transfer Review: There are warm tones, natural contrast, from the unique light of southern California to the interior of the dismal apartment under Coney Island's old Wild Mouse. I am disappointed to report that there are a few bad spots, most notably a fair-sized dark splotch that flashes dead center in one scene and the center right edge a few scenes later. I did not note these in the P&S version (which, by the way, is a crime to a film by one of the first vocal proponents of widescreen, letterboxed video), but I confess to being pretty bleary-eyed by then. Otherwise, a nice transfer.

Image Transfer Grade: B-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Frenchyes


Audio Transfer Review: The soundtrack is remastered in DD mono on both the French and English tracks. It is the best part of this transfer, crisp and even throughout. Every hesitant quaver in their voices is captured, and Keaton's fragile, breathy singing rings warmly on the ear. Nice work.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 49 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
2-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Trivia Booklet
Extras Review: The Trivia Booklet is well designed, informative and amusing. It includes a few behind-the-scenes notes, a bit about Woody & Diane/Alvy & Annie, the briefest of bios, list of awards and a list of the scene selections, all accompanied by stills from favorite scenes.

The trailer is presented in widescreen, unenhanced.

The menu is easy to navigate and quite complete.

Of course I wanted more, but footage of the deleted main plot—a murder mystery!—that's a different movie now.

Extras Grade: C

 

Final Comments

If you only own one Woody Allen movie, this should be it, as it is the crystallization of the essence of what is best about a "Woody Allen" film.Annie Hall is a perfect love story, a perfect comedy, a perfectly hilarious introspection, AND we come away with too much information to sort out our own lives—ever again. "O, well, la-de-da, la-de-da...."

 


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