My husband and I watched “Annie Hall” the other night, and I figured that I would follow the movie with a cute little review for the blog. As Ben tinkered in the next room, preparing dinner–I was reading about the film, and about Diane Keaton and Woody Allen. I just recently watched an epic two-part film “Woody Allen: A Documentary” on Netflix; it was endlessly fascinating. This is a man who basically writes one screenplay per year. This is a man who has a lots of neurosis and issues, but writer’s block is not one of them. Some movies are brilliant, some not as such. But I don’t think that bothers Allen, he just wants to make movies and be left the hell alone. As a fledgling writer, I love his attitude. He is not concerned with reviews or statistics, he just gets a story in his head, and makes the kind of film he wants to see. Of course, while Netflix has some interesting films, it is also an cinematic hospice-where bad movies come to die. While you could find a handful of Allen’s recent films…(and I think we can all admit his later years have not been the most fruitful), “Manhattan”, “Sleeper”, or “Annie Hall” is not available. In order to revisit these films you have to get in the car and drive to the Movie Mart, pluck the DVD off the shelf, all before getting harassed for late changes accrued over Christmas.
“This is why people don’t rent anymore! This is why these businesses are dying–we drove all the way across town to rent these!” My husband fumes. Yes, we did drive to the other side of town, and sometimes, it’s hard to make it back in time. In my world, late fees are a god-damned reality. Like Marvin Gaye once sang in his classic “Trouble Man” there are three things that’s “for sho, taxes, death and trouble”…but I would have to interrupt Mr Gaye, mid-song, “Don’t forget the late fees Marvin”.
Once home with our DVD’s–“Forrest Gump“, “This is 40” and “Annie Hall”, we started with Gump and finished with the Apatow comedy. And how these movies are almost the exact same length is beyond me–Forrest Gump kept stumbling upon moments in twentieth century American history, so the length is justifiable, but what those whiny sons-o’-bitches are going on about for well over two hours is beyond me. After those two movies; we decided to save “Annie Hall” for the following night.
And so there I am, researching before the film, ‘presearching’ if you will. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton had been in a romantic relationship, made several movies together, broke up, and then two years later, Allen wrote a film that was steeped in references to their failed partnership. I love this, I love the idea of friendly ex’s. “Remember how we dated for all those years, and then things went to shit? Well I’ve written a delightful little screenplay that rehashes the whole thing…oh and could you act it out with me?”
Though Allen would assert that ‘No, the film is not autobiographical’, Keaton would say that Annie Hall’s idiosyncrasies were based on her. Here’s a fun fact for you: Diane Keaton’s real last name is “Hall”, and privately, she goes by the name “Annie”, so you do the math. (I’m just kidding, no one has to do math here).
As each scene takes place, I am flushed with fond memories for this picture. I can not even begin to count how many times I have seen “Annie Hall”. I used to own it on VHS, and nearly wore it out with all the watching, rewinding and rewatching. This was one of the standard films that would be on in the background when I lived alone for all those years. Each time I watch it, I find the older I get, the more educated I become, the more the movie reveals itself to me. This movie is clever, creative, bittersweet, touching and brilliant. Film critic Roger Ebert said that this film is “just about everyone’s favorite Woody Allen movie”. It’s simply one of my favorites.
More than anything, I simply cannot get enough of Diane Keaton in this film, and watching this 35 -year- old film makes me realize how truly timeless her style is. I want those outfits. Though I can’t imagine any good could come of me in full out men’s wear, but she does it well; she’s actually wearing her own clothes, which is so fabulous. Imagine just showing up on set, and shooing away the costume team, that’s okay, I’m going to go ahead and start a fashion craze if you don’t mind. This is also a woman who collected her Oscar for this very film looking like this:
She’s also wearing two skirts, cigarette pants, socks and strappy heels in this ensemble. If I wore this I’d look like a crazy hobo, she does it and it looks so quirky and effortless. Like why wouldn’t you wear all those layers to the Oscars? Why not skip the ball gown and hit up a blazer instead?
As I’m reading about these topics, my research branches out beyond “Annie Hall”, and onto Keaton’s romances with Warren Beatty and Al Pacino, her eating disorder, and other films she did in her early years. My interest peaked over “Looking for Mr Goodbar”, a film made in the same year as “Annie Hall”.
I read the book in my early twenties and was properly traumatized; the book follows a popular young teacher who hangs out at dingy bars with a good book and a pack of cigarettes, sipping wine and keeping an eye out for sketchy men to bring home for one-night-stands. The book ends with her rape and murder. Like…the last line of the book is the last thought in her head. I then watched the film, (because I’m a glutton for punishment) and it was equally disturbing. The film ends in the pretty much the same way, but of course, the visual is always harder to bear. A very young Richard Gere is (unintentionally) funny as a spastic street hustler, and Keaton is lovely but ultimately doomed. I had always imagined that this movie was thought up as some kind of cautionary tale for young single women, but I discovered that it was based on the real life murder of Roseann Quinn. The story follows the case closely. This special-needs schoolteacher, in the midst of her masters for teaching the deaf, lived this secretive double life, and sought her kicks with rough and dangerous men that she found in dive bars. Her ending is brutal and horrible, and I’m not going to get into it here; but suffice it to say, the exact moment I am reading the sentence with the words ‘vagina’ and ‘candle’, my husband thrusts a spaghetti sauce covered spoon in my face. I jerk my head back, as if waking up from a nightmare. Ben is smiling, and trying to entice me into tasting his slow-cooking sauce.
“This is not the right time”, I tell him.
His smile drops, “Just try it”.
“Trust me, I’d rather not follow what I just read with that red, red sauce”.
Ben puts the spoon down, and I tell him about poor Roseann Quinn and ‘Looking for Mr Goodbar”. When the shock passes, settled in with a delicious pasta meal and “Annie Hall”, I think to myself–“This is how I like my Diane Keaton, safe and sound, and wrapped up in all those layers.