Annie Hall (Blu-ray)
Directed by Woody Allen
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 93 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono English; Dolby Digital 2.0 mono Spanish, French, many others
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish, French, Italian, many others
MSRP: $ 24.99
Release Date: January 24, 2012
Review Date: January 26, 2012
The film’s story jumps around from present to past and back again without warning (Allen’s fictional stand-in Alvy Singer mentions early on that his “mind jumps around” and so does the film about him and his love life), and it’s a breath of fresh air as we bounce around the hilarious “troubles” of the film’s talented comedy writer/comedian. We go from the precocious Alvy kissing a little girl in his second grade classroom to his dealing with a similar lack of success with a succession of flaky girls as he makes a life for himself in Manhattan. Allen has his characters sometimes interact with themselves in earlier incarnations, they often break the fourth wall, and they sometimes say one thing while thinking something else entirely different. For Alvy, life is a kaleidoscope of human comedy and often self-induced misery.
Some of Allen’s more interesting cinematic tricks involve the use of split screens and animation. One masterful moment shows Alvy’s Jewish family and Annie’s gentile family eating typical family dinners, a sharply pointed parody of everyone’s dinner manners and their variable topics of conversation with select members surrealistically conversing with one another across the split panels. The film’s invention seems inexhaustible as we see flashbacks to Alvy's childhood living under the roller coaster at Coney Island or listening to his schoolmates tell us whatever became of them.
The plot really serves up a string of writer-director Allen’s own pent up frustrations and pet peeves: fear of crawly things (lobsters and spiders, both of which make for hilarious vignettes), his disgust with know-it-alls that one meets in the most inauspicious places like a movie line, and a continuing fascination with anti-Semitism. Some of these are obvious reworkings of jokes from his stand-up act and from club and TV appearances (one wonders if that clip where he shares the stage with then-talk show host Dick Cavett was an excerpt from an actual guest appearance), but they’re so funny and so effective that the sources of this inspired work really don’t matter.
The rocky road of love with aspiring singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton), their courtship, break-up, reconciliation, and subsequent separation and romantic conclusion, forms the gist of the romantic comedy elements of the movie, and it provides the actress with the perfect role for her talents (she even gets to show off her Broadway musical roots in a couple of delicious song numbers “It Had to Be You” and “Seems Like Old Times”). Her charming, funny, quirky personality comes through constantly in this tailor-made role and won her the Best Actress Oscar in a year where Keaton also triumphed dramatically in the searing Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
Tony Roberts, another stalwart member of Woody Allen’s stable of supporting stars, has less to do here than in Play It Again, Sam, but his dry wit and more grounded personality provides a marked contrast to Woody’s own zany actions and constant quip-filled chatter. Among other famous faces who pop in and out of the film to excellent effect are Paul Simon as L.A. musician Tony Lacey who proves a tantalizing lure for Annie in the film’s later reels, Colleen Dewhurst as Annie’s grounded mother, and Carol Kane and Shelley Duvall as two of Alvy’s more unusual, idiosyncratic hook-ups.
The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is presented faithfully in a 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Unquestionably the best the film has ever looked on home video (the DVD was a problematic nonanamorphic disappointment), colors are solid and flesh tones usually very natural looking with only an occasional too-pink appearance. While sharpness is excellent, detail nicely presented, and the entire image the cleanest it’s ever been, contrast is a little more variable, sometimes spot-on but occasionally a bit milkier than in other scenes. Black levels are just all right. The talking/thinking sequence uses yellow subtitles which are a bit early and sometimes rushed in their placement but are very easy to read. The film has been divided into 49 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is clear and clean with no distracting hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter. Dialogue is always intelligible (very important with this film), and the spare music standards and Diane Keaton’s vocals come through excellently and without any distortion. Soundtracks for Allen films are unsurprisingly low-tech, but this lossless encode presents the film in a very clear-cut manner. There were slight momentary problems with sync with my system, but pausing the disc and then resuming cleared them right up.
The theatrical trailer is presented in an open matte 1.33:1 format and in 1080p running 2 ¼ minutes.
4/5 (not an average)
Annie Hall finally gets a home video release worthy of its greatness. While no one is surprised there are no bonus features to speak of with the Blu-ray of the film, at least the audio and video present this classic in its best possible light. Highly recommended!