From the opening scene of Annie Hall, which was released in 1977, Woody Allen makes it clear to his audience that the film is about the main character Alvy’s personal recollection of his past relationship with a woman named Annie. Annie Hall incorporates a number of off-kilter narrative techniques that help to set the movie apart from other movies of the 1970s, including: scene length, the breaking of the Fourth Wall, and the use of subtitles for conversational subtext. At first glance, these stylistic choices merely create a fast-paced and groundbreaking piece of cinema, but when one dives a little deeper, it is clear that these stylistic choices represent the fluidity of Alvy’s memories and stream of consciousness within those memories. Finally, Annie Hall also gives the audience an isolate view of the societal values held in the United States at the time the movie was released. Specifically, Annie Hall portrays the lives of New York liberal intellectuals in the time following a turbulent 1960s.

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Woody Allen makes clearly, if not blatantly, states to his audience what Annie Hall is about in the very first scene of the movie, which is a still, medium-close-framed shot of Alvy against a brown background. The color used in this shot is very important because it represents Alvy’s general, dim outlook on the world. Alvy even states this in his opening monologue, which is given directly to the camera: “Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly” (Allen). In the beginning of Annie Hall, the audience is introduced to Alvy and many other characters through a sort of “stream of consciousness” editing technique. When the movie mentions the name “Annie” for the first time, a scene between Annie and Alvy immediately follows. The same scene sequencing occurs for other characters early on, such as Allison, Dennis, or Robin.

Editing is a very intriguing aspect of Annie Hall. When viewing the movie, one notices the varied lengths of each scene. For example, to establish pace, Annie Hall starts with a number of short “flashback” scenes that establish Alvy’s neurotic mentality that has been present throughout his life. Woody Allen then follows this sequence with a lengthy scene that features Alvy and his friend Rob approach a fixed camera from afar. This variable and interjecting scene length style occurs throughout the film. What is fascinating about using short and long scenes in that manner that Allen did is that it resembles a sort of tangible recollection of thoughts. That is, sometimes a person only remembers a few seconds of a life experience, while other times a memory is lengthy, clear, and very impactful. Further, Annie Hall is mostly comprised of conversational dialogue. The movie is filed with words, often spoken at a quick pace, which backs up the notion that Alvy is replaying conversations in his head in an attempt to figure out where and when he went wrong. Thus, Annie Hall’s editing is just another representation of the movie’s focus on the memories of one man whose “interior monologues provide not merely the analysis but the alternative” to what actually happened (Ebert).

Annie Hall also mixes in a plethora of cinematic tools, such as: breaking the Fourth Wall, including subtitles to represent subtext, and using split-screen to show two scenes at once. One example of this occurs when Alvy is in line at the movie theatre, and the Fourth Wall is employed to represent Alvy’s annoyance with the man standing behind him. However, while entertaining, this scene and the use of this tool help establish useful insight into Alvy’s thoughts in later scenes. Another cinematic tool used in Annie Hall is the use of subtitles to represent subtext. Woody Allen’s use of this device furthers the individual conversation between Alvy and Annie while also adding depth to a budding relationship. This small use of subtitles/subtext allows the audience a deeper understanding of who these characters are and what they think of each other.

Finally, Annie Hall gives an isolated view of American culture in the 1960s and 1970s. Alvy goes to parties attended by New Yorker employees, is knowledge in art and literature, and drops names such as Sylvia Plath, Norman Rockwell, and Marshall McLuhan. Further, Alvy theorizes the validity of a possible Kennedy Assassination conspiracy and jokes about his quest for sexual fulfillment in the scope of the Eisenhower administration. Annie Hall also features open conversations about sex, anti-Semitism, and therapy. In one scene, Alvy might be concerned about the lingering hatred of the Jewish community, which was still present post-World War II, and in the next scene, he might be talking openly about seeing an analyst. The film features flashbacks to the 1960s, which was a significant and diverse period in the United States, but Annie Hall only shows a small sliver, however accurate, of the Unites States population during those time periods. That is, at the time, American liberalism was taking a new form following the conservative, albeit raucous, 1950s and Annie Hall showed a representation of what some American liberal intellectuals were like (Dalleck).

Annie Hall is a very unique film that accurately captures the lives and experiences of liberal intellectuals in the United States during the 1960s and 1970s. It is ironic that this depiction is accurate because Alvy’s recollection is far from correct. Alvy skews his memories as he sees fit. From a technical standpoint, Annie Hall remains a stylistic wonder in cinema. Any filmmaker can learn quite a bit about dialogue, narrative flow, and individual cinematic tools by watching Annie Hall.