Last night I watched “Annie Hall.” Ms Lynn is out of town and I like Woody Allen so I watched “Annie Hall” and drank a Belgian farmhouse ale because Ms Lynn isn’t into Woody Allen.
And, because I want to make a film. I watched “Annie Hall” critically last night to see what is going on in this film and what I could learn from it as a filmmaker.
Right now I feel like Annie in the scene where Alvy is at her place for the first time and he notices and praises some photos she made. Annie defers the praise and makes the statement that she’s had no formal training in photography. Alvy recommends taking a class in photography—as “it’s a new art form”—so she can better understand the aesthetics of the medium. His argument is that to contribute to art one must understand the lineage, history and theories of the medium.
But what’s interesting is that Annie replies—using almost the exact same language as Frank O’Hara used in “Personism: A Manifesto,”—with something like, “I just go with my gut.” She just enjoys making pictures.
I agree with Annie in that one doesn’t have to go to school to enjoy making pictures or poems or music or maybe even films. However, I’ve studied music and poetry and I agree with Alvy Singer that I need to better understand the craft, history and theory of film in order to be the best cinematic storyteller I can be. I wonder if it’s the difference between making art for myself versus making art where (I hope) others can enjoy it as well.
How does Wood Allen use the craft and medium of film to tell a story? And these are just things I picked up as someone who is in the writing and concepting phase of making a film.
Meta: We see it more and more in various artforms but it’s really powerful in film and theatre becuase it’s so unexpected and the direct address makes the scene very immediate. I think I first remember this from Berman and Pulcini’s “American Splendor” and I’ll never forget the experience of watching Jodorowski’s (SPOILER ALERT) “The Holy Mountain.” I really like how Allen uses it to show Alvy’s inner dialog. Literature is really good at allowing us to see inside the mind and emotions of a character—it’s more difficult to show, literally, what someone is contemplating in film.
Subtitles as translation of interior thoughts: Again, Allen seems to be looking for a way to show us interiority in film similarly to literature. There’s a great scene where Annie and Alvy are on the roof and getting to know one another. We see the characters on screen and hear what they’re saying but Allen uses subtitles, as if translating from one language to another, to show us what the characters are actually thinking.
Form and content: I also enjoy how he weaves the narrative of his story with the cycles (narrative) of relationships together from possible interest to new love to committed love to either long-term commitment or abandonment of the relationship.
I’m trying to understand what it is I enjoy in film as a way to build my vocabulary as a filmmaker. As Tony Hawk said in “Bones Brigade: An Autobiography,” “Once you’ve seen something done, it’s just a matter of time before we can do it ourselves.”