Alvy Singer is not, he tells us, a depressive character. It’s just that as a child he always worried that the expanding universe would one day break apart; and as an adult that romantic relationships must always fall apart. With Annie Hall, he thought he had finally found something that would last, in part because she could — like the audiences of Woody Allen — endure and make sense of his fragmented neuroticism: by finding it, on occasion, funny, or endearing, or even informative. While Annie’s patient, quirky fatalism does not prevent her from outgrowing Alvy and leaving him behind, the nostalgic and wistful frame of Allen’s film does have something to say about what helps keep love alive, and people connected. Wes & Erin conduct an analysis.
This episode’s conversation continues on our after-show (post)script.
Thanks to Nick Ketter for the audio editing on this episode.
Wes: La-la-di-da, Erin. Here we are discussing Annie Hall.
Erin: La-la-di-da. Yeah. So for some of our listeners, maybe this is going to be a slightly controversial subject matter, to say the least, which is understandable, given the current climate. So I guess we should just give a little disclaimer and to start us off and say that though we obviously recognize the controversy here, this is a famous movie and it also happens to be, Wes, I think, your favorite movie, or one of your favorite movies, right?
Wes: Yep. It’s my absolute favorite.
Erin: Yeah. So we thought that was sort of justification enough to tackle this, especially considering that it’s from 1977. It predates any controversy, so.
Wes: Yeah. And I have strong opinions about the controversy, which we’re not gonna discuss here.
Erin: Yeah, So we’re just going to tackle the movie for what it is and hope that you will forgive us any possible subtext [laughter] that will result.
Wes: Yeah. So, the beginning of the movie I find very winning, and it’s interesting because it’s him talking directly to the camera, and it kind of puts the audience in the position of being a psychoanalyst. And of course, the movie is going to involve him being neurotic in the typical Woody Allen way. And it’s also a lot of free association. It really is as if he’s on the couch. So, for instance, you know, there’s a line at some point about him needing to take cold showers. And then that becomes a transition to his friend Rob, saying to him, “With my serve, I’m gonna send you to the showers early.” So it’s a free association on “shower” and there’s a lot of… the movie is out of order. It’s all one kind of nostalgic reflection. And besides that, besides saying here, “I’m gonna treat you as my therapist,” the movie up front gives us, you know, it explains the theme and the problem of the movie, and he has two different ways of thinking about that. So one idea is about the fact that life is full of suffering, and yet we just want more of it. So he tells that joke about two elderly women in the Catskills, and one of them says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible,” and the other says, “Yeah, I know. And such small portions.” The other idea is that he doesn’t want any club that would have him as a member. And then he goes on to say “I’m not really depressed” and then flashes back to a childhood in which he’s obviously depressed and thinks that life is meaningless. You know, I wanted to start just by highlighting a few of these things. One is the treatment of us, the audience, as a therapist, and then the other three things are the things that he’s gonna be complaining to us about, which is suffering and dissatisfaction with anyone who approves of him, and then finally, some sense that things are meaningless anyway.
Erin: Yeah, well, I’m curious to know. Is it because of your well documented and well known interest in psychoanalysis that this is your favorite movie? Or do any of those themes, like, particularly appeal to you or…? I’m just… I’m curious. What makes this your favorite?
Wes: Well, this predates my interest in psychoanalysis, this movie being my favorite. And I really didn’t get into psychoanalysis until I was in my thirties, really. Well, there are a lot of things, you know. First of all, it’s just full of a lot of great gags. [laughter] It’s Woody Allen, at his best, as a comedian. This movie is full of them. Secondly, it pulls off this very loose plot structure, whether… like the first act, basically, goes backwards in time when it comes to his relationship with Annie Hall. So the actual plot is not in sequence, but there’s kind of an emotional through-line, which I think is very effective. Also, it’s just a well crafted film, like it’s got a great cinematographer, the cinematographer for The Godfather, I think. And the editing is really good. They took an original kind of mess of a hodgepodge of a script, and someone other than Woody Allen put it together, which I think is important. [laughter]
Erin: Yeah, wasn’t there a murder plot in it?
Wes: There was. It had. There was a murder subplot. And Woody Allen didn’t really want it to be about the relationship per se with Annie Hall, which is ridiculous. But the other thing that really appeals to me is the nostalgia quality, which is something that runs through Woody Allen films. Nostalgia, not just for periods in the past, but for childhood… In this case, a nostalgia for a past relationship that didn’t work out. And I think there’s something really important here about the relationship between love and nostalgia. I think, in a way, it’s a perfect movie, emotionally. I think the emotional effect that achieves in the way it’s paced out over the course of the movie is really great and profound, so. That’s my… I like a mixture of [laughter] comedy, you know, flippancy and then a nice deep emotion underneath them. What about you? What’s your…?
Erin: I love this movie, but I don’t, weirdly, have the… like, I think that one of the key elements of this film’s success is the fact that it also sort of inspires nostalgia in the watcher, maybe, like people…
Wes: Yeah, yeah.
Erin: …people have these really nostalgic memories about watching this film, and I actually don’t… like, I think I saw this probably too late. By the time I came around to watching it, it was maybe at the end of college or right after college. This is one of those movies that got away, you know. I had already seen, like basically every other Woody Allen movie. I had seen, you know, pretty much everything [laughter] at that point, and so when I finally saw it, I was like, “Oh, right, that’s where that joke comes from!” [laughter] because it’s so much part of the cultural zeitgeist that I wasn’t really able to properly appreciate it, and I was also… I was both, like, too old and too young, I think, at the same time, because I also didn’t really understand the fact that Alvy is, like, really horrible in a lot of ways [laughter]and, you know, kind of terrible to Annie and that that’s sort of the point. I guess I didn’t really understand the self-criticism inherent in the film. So I ended up just, I mean, enjoying it and thinking it was really clever, but it didn’t really resonate with me the way that it should have, probably. And of course over the years have seen it many more times, and it’s definitely, I think, one of Woody Allen’s best films, but it’s not my favorite, even though it is most people’s favorite, I think.
Wes: What is your favorite?
Erin: Hannah and her Sisters. I love it. I love that one. But I also love…
Wes: Mm. It’s great. We will definitely do that one day.
Erin: Yeah. But, you know, he has a lot of… like there are a lot of great ones. I even love a lot of the minor ones that other people don’t like.
Wes: Yeah, there’s a lot of minor ones that I actually hate with a passion.
Erin: Oh, really? I love, like Mighty Aphrodite and Bullets over Broadway. Even Small Time Crooks is like, really, really good. Yeah, but the great ones… Yeah, I’d say probably Hannah and her Sisters, maybe Purple Rose of Cairo.
Wes: Middle Allen. But I actually, like early, early and middle.
Erin: Yeah, I really didn’t like *Moonlight in Paris. Is that the name of it? Midnight in Paris!
Wes: Yeah, I enjoyed that, actually. But the most recent, too, I think, are absolutely awful.
Erin: Yeah. So it’s weird. I don’t I don’t really have that nostalgic association, but everybody that I talked to who was movie-going in ‘77 talks about their experience watching that movie, or how much it affected them, and I certainly understand that, and there are, like, so many great gags in this. So should we talk about the experience of movie-going in this movie [laughter] as a way to get us started? I don’t know.
Erin: Yeah. So as you said, it starts out sort of out of order. I guess the first time that we see Annie and Alvy together is at the end of their relationship, or very close to the end. He’s waiting for her in front of The Beekman. They’re going to see Bergman’s… What is it, Face to Face, maybe? And while he’s waiting outside the theater, these two guys are like, kind of being really…
Wes: [laughter] They say: “Alvy Singer!”
Erin: Yes. [laughter] They’re kind of being really nice to him, but Alvy doesn’t doesn’t like it, and it gets to be too much.
Wes: They’re being nice to him. [laughter]
Erin: Yes, sort of. Like… I don’t know.
Wes: As he said, that’s like out here with the cast of The Godfather. And actually, one of them is… was in the cast of The Godfather. And, of course, Diane Keaton was [laughter] a major part in The Godfather. So I love that one. Two meatheads getting excited because he’s the… he’s on TV. So I guess I have a different… I sympathize with him.
Erin: I do, too. I do, too, But I don’t know. These guys were so excited to… He can’t be recognized all that off. I mean, this is the only time in the film that he’s recognized.
Erin: So anyway, they miss like the first two minutes of the movie because he’s waiting for her, she’s late. And then he suggests that they go see The Sorrow and the Pity, which I have never seen, though I have seen Shoah, so I’ve paid my dues, but I’ve never seen The Sorrow and the Pity. And yeah, and they’ve already seen that, like a number of times, I guess. And in line at the other movie theater, which, like why is there such a long line to see The Sorrow and the Pity, I don’t know. [laughter] But anyway, in line at the other theater is the famous scene where he brings out Marshall McLuhan to debate the obnoxious guy who’s pontificating behind him in line, which I love.
Wes: I like that moment because it’s kind of one of his few triumphs in the first act. A lot of it is just kind of miserable. You know, the few positive things we get are the wonderful date with the lobsters, which was actually the first scene in the movie they shot, and a lot of it was actually them out of character and laughing. They were just being themselves and having fun, Woody and Diane Keaton. And then he’s actually meeting her. And so that all goes back in time, right? So we start with the end of the relationship where things have gotten bad. And then there there’s a part when they’re in bed, after The Sorrow and the Pity, and she’s reading The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, one of my favorites. And she doesn’t wanna have sex, and she says, “This will pass” and then she does the… you know, “you’ve been married before, you were hot for Alison.” So on one plane, the part about Annie… his relationship with Annie Hall is going backwards. And then the rest of it is kind of these flashbacks, including the flashbacks to his previous marriages and the way those went wrong. And both of these wives, by the way, are intellectuals. One of them is an author and has lots of professor friends, you know, there at that party and the other one Allison… what’s her last name? [laughter]
Erin: Portchnik, I think. [laughter]
Wes: Portchnik. She’s another intellectual. You know, he ruins that one by getting conspiratorial, right? She wants to have sex, but he wants to talk about JFK conspiracies. And then the other one, he just seems to be intimidated by the fact that she’s intellectual, an intellectual, and has all these intellectual friends.
Erin: So he takes responsibility for the failure of the first marriage. He says that it was his fault, I think, to Annie, at some point. And then the second… the second marriage is kind of strange, because you would think that that’s exactly what he would like or that that kind of woman is what he’s trying to make Annie over into. But then he sort of emphasizes the fact that he likes sports and he’s normal, and he doesn’t want someone who’s too intellectual, like he’s trying to watch the Knicks game during one of the frou-frou parties [laughter] that she’s throwing. And then he seems, in that scene where he’s trying to watch the Knicks, like, okay, so maybe he’s sort of the halfway point between, like, this woman and someone like Annie. And so he seems to be like, slightly less neurotic than her at the beginning of that scene because she’s like, “Oh, you know, my analyst says I need to move to the country because I can’t…” She’s too jumpy to have sex with her husband…
Wes: She says she’s too tense. She needs a Valium, yeah.
Erin: Right, and he’s trying to relax her. But then we realized that he’s like… he’s just as neurotic, because then he lists all the things that he hates about the country. Like he has to live in the city. He can’t go to the country because there’s like, dead moths behind screens and the Manson family, and Dick and Perry, I think, he says. So they’re both just as neurotic as each other, I guess. But so he wants someone who’s not the same as him. But he also doesn’t want someone who’s more opposite to him.
Wes: Exactly. Yeah. I think that’s really important because, you know, he says the country makes him nervous, and it’s interesting that both Annie Hall and his second wife, whose name I don’t think we ever get, right. I don’t think her name is ever used, unless I’m wrong.
Erin: I don’t think so, either.
Wes: So it’s interesting that, you know, he’s making them nervous, right. One of them needs weed, the other one needs Valium and can’t be distracted. And of course, he’s creating a lot of this with his own nervousness and pessimism, and that’s what’s going on. But he’s chosen women, right, who are intellectuals, and he has a very ambivalent relationship to intellectuals. And so does Woody Allen in real life. And it’s obvious from his movies, right. He likes to portray intellectuals… and this is part of what is bad about his later movies. The dialogue that he attributes to intellectuals is absurd. Part of his ambivalence, right, we see in the flashbacks to his childhood. He comes from a working class background, and we get that wonderful juxtaposition when he’s in Annie Hall’s family’s house, you know, between his family dinner and her family dinner, and the chaos, and Jewish working class atmosphere of that, and then her waspy, more wealthy, stayed, Middle Western… where is she from, again?
Erin: Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.
Wes: Chippewa Falls. Yes. [laughter] So, yeah, he wants to be around intellectuals, in a way he wants to be one, but then he doesn’t. So he has a career which is kind of a satellite career to being an intellectual, which is being a comedian, and it’s very, very, very smart people who want to avoid the… getting fully sucked into an intellectual sort of life. And also he, you know, as we see from the flash back to his early childhood and his worry about that everything is meaningless and pointless, he’s kind of got that philosophical impulse, he wants to make meaning, but he feels too insecure about it, right. He feels too insecure to go talk to professors at a party or to go fully fledged like that. So in Annie Hall, he finds someone… you know, I’ve seen her referred to, in some secondary literature, as a ditz. That doesn’t really quite capture it. It’s kind of unfair.
Wes: You might think of her as flaky. She’s definitely quirky, even to the clothing she wears. You know, she wears like a button down for tennis, and she’s wears that vest, which, by the way, Diane Keaton chose that, that’s Diane Keaton’s actual clothing, and she chose to wear it against the wishes of the costume designer, and apparently created a trend in the seventies where women would dress like that, and just because of Diane Keaton. But yeah, so she’s quirky, and she’s also insecure. She’s insecure in lots of ways, but intellectually, and so is he. But he can feel kind of superior to her and mentor her and try to shape her as a human being. And that includes by saying to her that “you should take adult ed courses”, which leads to one of her principal complaints that leads to the break up, which is that “I’m not smart enough for you to take seriously or to get serious with.” So, yeah, that’s his kind of compromise within the romantic relationship is to find someone who isn’t an intellectual but someone who he thinks can kind of nudge in that direction. That’s part of what’s so interesting about the movie, is that sort of relationship.
Erin: Yeah. So what you said about how Woody Allen is actually not an intellectual is sort of pretty interesting, because I think a lot of people who don’t know his movies kind of lump him in with the intellectual class or think that he’s one of them.
Erin: And there definitely is a, you know, kind of a genetic quality that runs through the whole movie of… you know, he could have become like an Allison, right. He could have gone to grad school, become politically engaged. And there’s a certain heritage involved in being this particular type of New York Jewish leftist, [laughter] which he even… which his dad even displays right, Because there’s that… the scene where the mom and the dad, Alvy’s mom and dad, are fighting because the dad has been allowing the maid to steal from them. And he gives this sort of like socialist defense of that, which is pretty funny. And obviously, where Alvy gets a little bit of his philosophizing, the mom seems totally shut down to any outside-the-box idea. But then, when we do see Alvey interact with Allison, it’s not because they’re both attending the Adlai Stevenson rally. It’s because he’s working the rally, and then he even makes a joke that sort of, like, defies politics, at the start of the rally, where the one joke that we hear him give in his set is about how he wanted to do to that girl in the Eisenhower campaign, what Eisenhower was doing to the country. [laughter] So even that is like, you know, he was just trying to have sex with some woman in the Eisenhower campaign as the [laughter] basis for the joke. So there’s a little bit of, like… even though he’s, you know, self identified as being leftist there’s this kind of ambivalence about politics outside of his conspiracy theories, in the ways in which that exercises that neurotic tendency of his. But he’s not like, really political, you can’t really say, and he’s not really intellectual. You’re right. So it’s sort of a strange… I mean, he is kind of an island, in a way, like his profession makes him separated from everyone else, which I think contributes to the fact that he can’t really find happiness in a romantic relationship.
Wes: You know, Woody Allen himself says, “I’m not an intellectual” and he’s right, right? It’s strange that people [laughter] are trying to classify him that way just because he likes to represent them and in a way, has a love-hate relationship with them.
Erin: How is he not that? I mean, what constitutes being an intellectual, really?
Wes: That’s a good question. I think he doesn’t have a sustained deep interest in philosophy, for instance. He doesn’t actually really want to go there. I would have to think longer about why I think he’s… I wouldn’t count him as an intellectual. Maybe that’s too unfair. But whatever the case, he’s… you know, the working class part of him, the person who did not grow up in a privileged environment, that is preserved in what he does. So I see him as sort of milling around at the very edge of that and not not being that. So he would say this about himself. I think I’m not… I don’t think I’m being unfair. And I mean, I think he would say it, and I think he’s right. I don’t think it’s just modesty.
Erin: Yeah, I guess, like a simpler and better way of saying what I was trying to say before is just that he does come from one of the strains of intellectual heritage in this country.
Erin: So even though the whole working class Jewish background would seem to be opposed to that, that’s actually like one of the main groups from which intellectuals spring.
Wes: Yeah, yeah.
Wes: That’s a great point. Yeah, you’re right. It’s not in such opposition. And then, you know, after World War II, with the GI bill… Is that what it’s called?
Wes: Yeah, a lot of people who would end up doing great work in the Academie, actually, were people who had been in the military and went to college only because of the GI bill. I think that’s changed. I think that people who are… reached the top of the academy now generally come from greater privilege. Maybe that’s just my kind of prejudiced view of it, and it shows. There’s something more concrete, and down to earth, and engaged, I think, about the middle of the 20th century, that kind of work that was being done. But yeah, I wanted to bring up too… you mentioned the conspiracy theory. I’ve always seen conspiracy theories as another degraded or warped form of being an intellectual, because the conspiracist, in a way, is hyper scientific, right? If you’ve ever gone to a 9-11 truther site, you see that it’s chock full of data (so called data) and chock full of theories, you know. Someone wants to say, “Well, it would… you know, jet fuel could never have melted steel” or something like that “so that couldn’t have been the cause.” So they’re doing a lot of causal theorizing, right? He wants to theorize, he wants to think about what actually happened with JFK. The difference is that we’re in a kind of epistemologically fraught position as human beings where we actually have to rely on others a lot. It’s not trust exactly in any particular human being; we know that human beings in general are deceptive and self-interested, but it’s trust in our own ability to suss out, via secondhand information, the truth, because we understand people’s motivations, right? So the conspiracist doesn’t get the fact that what’s implausible about their theories is that they’re psychologically implausible, right? People can’t keep those kinds of secrets, for instance. Large groups of people couldn’t collaborate, in a way, and keep everything hidden, or they’re not that diabolical. Like, it doesn’t make sense when you think about it, like what the purpose of an inside job on the towers was supposed to be. So the paranoid person loses touch with the ways in which we trust in the collective, or we think we can get into the head of the collective and becomes hyper scientific at the expense of that. And that’s one of the first transitions in the movie, where the mom says, “You know, he’s always so distrustful.” And then you have him talking to Rob about anti Semitism and so you get a lot of this about his distrust and conspiratorial mind that’s really actually important in the movie, because again, it’s like being a comedian. A comedian is a healthier version of this, it’s a kind of variation on intellectuality, let’s say.
Erin: Mm. Yeah, I love the “Did you eat?”…Jew, Jew [laughter]
Wes: “Did you eat yet?”, Jew.. Yeah. [laughter] That joke.
Erin: …the arian guy who suggested the sale on Wagner. [laughter] Oh, Gosh!
Wes: [laughter] Yeah. And it’s always with Rob. I always thought of him as Max and I always thought that Max was like a grandiose extension of Woody Allen’s self. I thought there was some kind of interesting comment because they’re calling each other Max. So I thought, basically, that Alvy Singer had this friend whose name was Max, who would call him by the same name, which is, you know, such a weird thing. It made me think he was an extension of himself, but it turns out that in real life Woody Allen and a friend would use that name for each other in public, out of fear of being recognized or something. So that ended up in the movie. And he is kind of a more narcissistic or grandiose figure in the movie, this Rob guy. He’s fit and handsome, and he’s an actor, and he kind of exudes self-confidence, an Alfa-male type of feel. And he’s the one that Alvy Singer will always be complaining to, of with these distrustful or conspiratorial ideas. Every time you see them, he’s kvetching about something or other.
Erin: I sort of think of him as the extension of the doctor at the beginning, when he’s upset and his mom takes him to the doctor because the universe is expanding and the doctor is like, “Hey, don’t worry about it, you know, it’s it’s not gonna happen for billions of years, and we should just enjoy ourselves while we’re here, right?”
Wes: Does he say that Brooklyn will be… not be expanding for billions of years?
Erin: [laughter] Yeah.
Wes: I love the way it’s localized to Brooklyn.
Erin: [laughter] That sort of dichotomy, maybe, or the different philosophical schools are set up from the beginning, and the doctor is sort of the epicurean right, like you should just enjoy yourself. And so I think that’s kind of the refrain that the Rob character takes up through the whole film just like, “Hey, just relax like go to this land of leisure and sunshine and…
Erin: …and white clothing.” [laughter] And that’s something that Woody Allen can’t do because he has to be suffering in New York in order to be himself or something. What you say about the conspiracy theories, too, and that overthinking lending itself to comedy, it’s a contrast with Annie from the very first scene when… Well, no, I guess not the very first scene in their relationship. But when they go to her apartment and they have that conversation on the balcony or the roof, wherever that is, that outdoor…
Wes: Yeah, I think it is the rooftop.
Erin: …part of her apartment… the roof, okay… and they’re talking about photography, and we just get this immediate sense… I mean, I guess in hindsight we get the sense that these two people are just really wrong for each other. The fact that she has this really great, innate aesthetic sensibility about photography, but he is kind of bringing up this idea of aesthetic guidelines. She doesn’t even really… I mean, she knows what he’s talking about, but it takes her a second to figure out what he’s talking about.
Wes: Well, she says, “Oh, you mean whether a photograph is good or not?” [laughter]
Erin: Right. Right. Yeah, yeah. And she has a really good innate talent. You know, the photographs that she takes are really great, and he really, really does like them. But she says something like, “Oh, I just try not to think about it so much.” And so we get the sense that these people are really wrong for each other, or at least that there’s gonna have to be some give-and-take in this relationship, that he hopefully will learn to be a little bit more loose and adapt to her, and maybe she’ll learn what aesthetic guidelines are and adapt to him a little bit. But instead it kind of only moves in one direction, right. I think like at one point, maybe after the spider, or the Buick scene, when they’re in bed together, she says something, “You know, maybe I could teach you to have a little bit more fun”, something like that, and he’s incapable of doing that. So she tries to take adult education and do what he wants, but he just can’t have any fun, which is really sad. But, yeah, there’s no kind of mutual adaptation that goes on there.
Wes: Yeah, so he doesn’t make progress, right? Does that refrain? I don’t know how many times it comes up in the movie, but the idea that he’s been in analysis for 15 years. And one of the turning points is actually when she’s had her very first analytic session and she comes back and she’s had these breakthroughs and he gets envious and he’s like, “What? You know, I’ve been in for 15 years and I’ve never cried.” And then I have to mention this: there’s that great ending with that scene where she says, “You know, yeah, that’s great, but we’ll change my wife.” [laughter]
Erin: Yeah, yeah. [laughter]
Wes: And then, she insists. “It’s changed,” she said. She said, “changed my life,” then finally looks at the camera and “I’m not crazy because you heard me.”
Wes: So he, you know, he gets her in to do analysis. He gets her into adult ed classes, you know. It’s like he’s found a version of himself, and he wants to… it’s a Pygmalion element where he’s going to educate her. He needs to start out with someone who’s not quite what he wants. She’s not the full-on intellectual, somebody who’s not gonna make him insecure. But then he’s going to reform her. And of course, what happens is she grows. They grow apart because she grows. She responds to analysis, she responds to the adult ed stuff and ends up hanging out with that professor that he gets jealous of, so that’s one of the things that leads to their first break up. So, yeah, as you pointed out, he doesn’t actually get pulled in her direction, in the direction of having a more visceral relationship to things, even though he thinks of himself that way, right, when he pulls the second wife into the bedroom and, he says, “We’ll be quietly humping in here while they’re discussing modes of alienation,” he thinks of himself as more down to earth. But his neurosis kind of lifts him out of that, and he can’t get pulled toward that, even though he has that aspiration. So again, it’s this ambivalence, he’s pulled towards both of these things: the intellectual and the more down to earth.
Erin: Yeah, it strikes me this time how innately intelligent, and he is, you know. I mean, she immediately picks up on what he’s not quite saying to her, which is, you know, that he doesn’t think that she’s smart enough for him. That’s in the subtitles. You know, the very first time that they talk and they’ve said very little to each other and she picks up on that.
Wes: You mean the subtitles to that roof conversation where…?
Erin: To the… Yeah, yeah.
Wes: They’re saying one thing overtly and then you read their thoughts underneath. Yeah.
Erin: Yeah. So she picks up on that very quickly, and it turns out that that’s… you know, that she hit the nail on the head there, and that refrain comes up again and again. In fact, there’s even like a flashback within a flashback, where he said, “Oh, you know, we’re always having this argument about how you don’t think that I think you’re smart enough,” and then it flashes back to their conversation post analysis. So she picks up on that. Her photography is great. You know, it’s very… she has this great innate artistic ability. And the same thing with her singing, you know, it’s very sort of unstudied and pure. I mean, she even, like, brags about not having taken a lesson, which reminds me of The Awful Truth. But, you know, it’s very… there’s a sweetness to it because she’s talented, you know, and she has this very live emotion, I think, that is informing the way that she’s singing, which makes it very compelling. She’s tuned in, physically and everything else, even though that’s kind of contrasted with her desire to sort of tune out a little bit, I guess, with the marijuana while they’re having sex. But I think it’s almost like she’s trying to tune him out, or something. [laughter] It’s a little bit different.
Wes: Yeah. Well, you mentioned the singing, she… Their first date, right? They make that first date on the night that she’s singing and he comes and sees her, and she’s very nervous and thinks she’s messed up. And that’s bookended with another singing scene in the third act, where she’s much more confident, right? And she’s singing Seems like Old Times.
Erin: Yeah, yeah, it’s a great song.
Wes: Which is another thing that makes me think of the, you know, the nature of nostalgia and all of this. As you mentioned, there’s not… he doesn’t get pulled in the direction of being more down to earth like she is, except if you step outside of the frame of the movie and think of the movie itself right as an aesthetic creation, as a sublimation. In a sense, it’s a very down to earth kind of movie for all the neurosis that it frames. It’s down to earth in the sense of it’s… I think it captures some real emotions, as I said at the beginning, and I think it accomplishes that via nostalgia. It kind of… I think what Woody Allen does, in general, is he sort of translates love and his problem with love into nostalgia, and that becomes the sort of solution for him, the solution that he can’t find within the relationship itself. You know, I did some reflecting on what nostalgia is exactly, and I think part of it is… it’s a way of appreciating the past as past and appreciating things that you couldn’t appreciate in the present because you’re too inured to the present. The present always seems very ordinary. So there’s something you know, even if you have a nostalgia for a certain period, let’s say the twenties, you can appreciate it seems, whether you think it seems quaint or cool or whatever it is about the fashions of the twenties, whatever that relationship is, you know, to something retro. There’s a novelty to it, which, of course, you wouldn’t have been able to experience if you were there, right? Nothing would have seemed all that special if you lived in the twenties about those fashions and those ways. So we lose out a lot on the novelty, there is a true novelty to the present that we can’t recognize in the present. And the other thing is, there’s a lot of suffering in the present. That’s something that I think it takes time to appreciate. So there’s kind of, you know, there’s a nostalgia for certain periods, and then there’s a nostalgia for earlier parts of one’s life and for certain relationships, and I think it’s a way of appreciating suffering in a way that we can’t appreciate it in the present. You appreciate the fact that it is something that is kind of integral to making you who you are and maybe integral to the other happy moments that you’re also remembering about when you’re nostalgic. So there’s a kind of bittersweetness to nostalgia because you sort of grasped the interconnectedness of pain and pleasure of the past. I think there’s a mourning quality to nostalgia. There’s a sense of the appreciation of loss, in part because past is lost and in part because the present, as it was felt, is full of disappointments. So you gain a kind of acceptance of both of those things in nostalgia.
Erin: I like that as a sort of justification for the flashback itself, right, well, and also just the way in which the movie flashes back to various remembrances. So, like it’s out of order. And it just remembers certain spots. And there’s even that little clip montage at the end of all of the parts of their relationship, which some people have said is like a really unnecessary [laughter] part of a movie that’s only 90 minutes long, but…
Wes: Screw them…[laughter]
Erin: …they should have this little clip montage, but it’s so perfect…
Erin: …because it’s like the highlight reel that he chooses to remember from the relationship and not the actual, deeper flashbacks that he goes into when he’s really trying to assess things out. But the idea that the very first time we see them in their relationship is the end of the relationship, when things have really soured and that’s where he goes to, and even that we have the sense is… because you might ask, why does he go to a place where there’s more suffering? You know, why doesn’t he just remember the good things about their relationship? And he does try to do that. Like I think that’s kind of what you’re saying about the movie itself. Like if you step out of the movie as an artifact, you know, he goes to the harder places or the places of more suffering, to give a truer version of the past and therefore maybe that trying to cut through that nostalgia by remembering the suffering, whereas Alvey himself, the character, when he sort of rewrites the relationship, he leaches all of that out of it when he writes that play at the end.
Wes: Yes. Yes, exactly.
Erin: Yeah, so that’s a really… I think, like a really good way of viewing the movie is that he could have made it into this play where there’s a happy ending and everything turned out okay, but he didn’t. The movie itself is a repudiation of a lot of his attitudes and shows that he was kind of the villain. That’s too strong of a word, but sort of the villain in the relationship, which the play denounces or ignores.
Wes: Yeah, I think that’s really good. He doesn’t make progress. He doesn’t grow like Annie Hall does within the movie itself as part of the narrative, but his growth happens aesthetically over the course, like the movie is the growth, right, that the way the movie proceeds is a form of transformation. It’s a coming to terms with things, it’s a… you get what I mean. So his transformation happens at the level of filmmaking. I was gonna also say I think of nostalgia as inherently… It’s not just a looking back on the… even though I think it might be popularly thought of this way. I don’t think it is just a looking back on the fun times, you know, like the thing that he does at the end of the movie. It has to include an appreciation of a suffering and loss. And I think this is important, to love, because part of the problem of the movie is that, as that old woman says on the street, love always fades, and I think that lends itself to his sense of meaninglessness. And how can there be meaning in life if love always fades. And whether that’s true or false, maybe love doesn’t always fade. But that’s kind of the pessimistic thesis of the movie. And the fantasy here, I think, is that we can sustain love. We can keep it going by adding a sense of nostalgia to it. So just you know, when I described period nostalgia and the fact that there’s a novelty to the twenties that’s there for uswhen we look back at it, that’s not there for them. The same way with relationships, right. Relationships lose their novelty and part of why love fades is that, you know, at least infatuation, is that there seems to be an element of novelty involved in that. I think there’s a form of long term love as well, and I think the thesis here is that that involves being able to integrate a kind of nostalgia into it. It’s like we transport ourselves into the future and look back on that. And in doing that, the fears and the irritations and all the other… and the suffering that goes on in a relationship are not so pressing, right. It’s like if we could step into the future and look back on things, we could have that nostalgic kind of containing feeling into them. So in other words, if we kind of integrate a preemptive nostalgia into love, then maybe it could be a sustainable, long term sort of love. And I don’t know if that’s right. But I do think that there is something of that fantasy here, and it’s also related to art, right? So it’s related to the idea that you, you know, he’s concerned with [laughter] aesthetic criteria. But what I think really the… This is also a way of aestheticizing love, of making it an aesthetic phenomenon by standing outside of it and appreciating it as an outsider, as a way of sustaining it. So usually we’re just on the inside and we’re trapped on the inside of it where, like I said, the novelty fades and we want to do something to really see it for what it is and its essence beyond the kind of limited viewpoint of the moment. There’s something aesthetic in that standpoint.
Erin: Yeah, that’s really good. I’m interested in what you say about the suffering being that kind of necessary component because I think it has to be kind of a transformational suffering in order to produce nostalgia in us. I think it can’t be suffering to no end, you know. It has to be suffering that we’ve been able to make some sense out of in hindsight. I don’t think they were nostalgic for times of suffering in which there was no purpose. I think that just maybe creates like bitterness without that sweetness.
Wes: Yeah, I think that at least we have to be able to create that purpose in the moment of nostalgia.
Wes: So, you know, at the time it might have seemed purposeless and… But on later reflection, especially as we mature, right, we can look back on those times, it seemed pointless and meaningless, à la young Alvy: the world is expanding and everything will fall apart, and draw everything back together and give it order and give it meaning, so… And the way to do that is to say, well, suffering has a function. Suffering is not just some random ingredient in life. It orders experience, and it orders our growth. Growth isn’t possible without it and, in a way, time isn’t possible without it. So you kind of get into the theocracy and sort of classic justifications of the way of God to human beings by saying that there’s no becoming, there’s no world without suffering. But you could apply that at the level of psychological development, and relationships, and so on.
Erin: It struck me this time, since I’m now on the eve of my 30th birthday, that Alvy is having all of these recollections because he’s turned 40 or is about to turn 40.
Erin: Maybe it’s lending that nostalgic quality to these sufferings, as you say, as a function of time. Just for me, looking back, I mean, my twenties were really a difficult decade, and I’m not… I have not yet become mature enough to have nostalgia [laughter] for some of them are difficult moments. Maybe things will be even worse in my thirties, and then I’ll have nostalgia for the suffering of my twenties. [laughter] But you know, there were certain things in my twenties that I do have nostalgia for, that I can see that the suffering bore some fruit and was transformational in some way. And I’ve been able to… you know, in the way that we all do, kind of like integrate those things as part of my personal history. This happened and so then therefore this happened. So it was redeemed over the course of my life because it bore some positive element to it. I think what Alvy is doing here is… yeah, like you say, like coming out on the other side of that. Maybe because of this sign post of aging and being able to look back on that suffering and find some positive, redeeming, transformational element in his own life.
Wes: Yeah. I wanted to relate this to… the ideas of the beginning of the movie seem like… it’s hard to immediately see how they’re related, this idea that there’s so much suffering, but we want more and then that he doesn’t want to belong to any club that would have him as member and then the pointlessness of things. But I think the idea of not wanting to be part of any club in which you are a member, I think you could say that about one’s relation to time or, in particular, Alvy’s relation to time. So in a way, he has an allergy to the present. I think that is involved in his neurosis so he can’t enjoy the moment, right? He can’t simply be in the moment. Annie Hall’s someone who can do that much better and actually does help him a little bit with that, but ultimately can’t overcome his bloomy depressive take on the world. So that, what I’m calling an allergy to the present, again that’s something that could be overcome if we can step outside of the presence, but not in the way that… not in the sort of manic way, right, where… thinking back to our Macbeth episode and Lady Macbeth wants to be transported out of the ignorant present, right? You want the future to happen or you want things to be perfect, you want there to be no suffering, you want it to be all pleasure or all greatness. Instead, you have to tolerate becoming, you have to tolerate growth, you have to tolerate suffering. To do that, you overcome your allergy to the present by, again, being able to make sense of it, which I think is related again to nostalgia, being able to look at suffering as integral to everything else, including the pleasure. He doesn’t want to be in that club, you know, that would accept him, he doesn’t want to be in the present. And there is a way of doing that, there is a healthier way of doing that, which is to take in a kind of aesthetic distance, to be looking at oneself in the moment as if you were looking at a past event and accepting it for what it is.
Erin: I guess I never considered the geography of Wisconsin before, but I’m wondering what the [laughter] the symbolic elements of Wisconsin are in relation to this idea of nostalgia and suffering, because it seems as though…
Wes: Well, there’s cheese. That’s important. [laughter]
Erin: Right. [laughter] It seizes… Alvy’s association with New York City is also… it’s an association with his family. I mean he takes Annie back to Brooklyn and Brooklyn seems like an even more… It seems like “suffering central”. [laughter] The idea that you have the house underneath the roller coasters, so there’s like an inherent suffering just in living in that house, but also the idea that the family has chosen this perfect…
Wes: By the way, sorry to interrupt you, but suffering is about going home in a way, right?
Wes: So the derivation of the word “nostalgia” is from “nóstos” in ancient Greek, meaning “homecoming” and then “álgos” meaning “pain” or “ache”. So it’s an aching for home in some sense. Sorry, just wanted to jump in with that when you were talking about home being inherently painful. [laughter]
Erin: Yeah, that’s good. So his whole family is like they’re marinated in the suffering. This is, you know, it’s part of their culture. It seems like the chief characteristic of this suffering is the idea that it isn’t redemptive. You know they’re suffering, but they don’t know why. And then that’s just like their state, and they’re comfortable suffering. They’re more comfortable suffering than not suffering. [laughter] In the scene where there’s the split screen with the two families, the Singers and the Halls at dinner and Mrs Hall, who’s Colleen Dewhurst, (who I always forget that she’s in this movie, and then I’m always delighted that it’s “Oh yeah, that’s Colleen Dewhurst.”) Anyway, she talks across the split screen to Mrs Singer, and they say that they’re atoning for their sins, but then they, like, don’t even know why, they don’t even know what sins, you know. So they’re sort of suffering with this purposelessness. And then in L.A. It’s all the land that rejects suffering, right?[laughter] It’s like this complete… you know…
Wes: It is the promised land, that’s the land of milk and honey, you know.
Erin: Yeah, so I wonder what… you know, maybe I’m reading too much into the symbology of place here by noting that Wisconsin is pretty much a perfect halfway point and what that might mean.
Wes: That’s very good, because I think Annie Hall is his compromise between intellectual, neurotic, suffering New York and shallow, pleasure-seeking California.
Wes: And she’s got that Midwestern, laid-back, down-to-earth thing and isn’t superficial, but has, you know, hints of that in her flakiness. You could see her as easily as belonging in New York as well. And it’s perfectly natural for her to start reading the things that he’s giving her, and she’s accepting all his pessimism and his focus on death, right. What is the first book he gives her? The Denial of Death. [laughter]
Wes: It’s a book, by the way. I’ve always wanted to read. [laughter]
Erin: All right. [laughter]
Wes: Yes. Go figure. So, yeah, I think you’re right. She’s kind of a hybrid of those two places. I hadn’t thought of that.
Erin: Yeah, and she does have some, you know, she has things to tell her analyst. I mean, she takes to it [laughter] really well, because she has had some problems, and obviously her brother…[laughter]
Wes: [laughter] Oh, God, I love that.
Erin: That’s my favorite scene. Oh, my Gosh, it’s so great.
Wes: Let’s find that and…
Erin: Christopher Walken as Duane.
Wes: We have to find that. And… “can I confess something?” [laughter] Alvy sits down. “I tell you this because as an artist…
Wes: …I think you understand.” [laughter] That’s my Christopher Walken impression. I love that, you know, seeing the headlights, wanting to drive into them. “Now I’m due back on Planet Earth.” It’s so great.
Erin: It’s so mean. [laughter]
Wes: I know. So mean. Yeah. So, and Annie is neurotic, right? She’s, you know, they do share that. It’s not like being from the Midwest [laughter] it means you are not neurotic. Of course, she’s chosen the wrong guy [laughter] for that, since she’s chosen a fellow neurotic and someone who’s much more neurotic than her.
Erin: I like the fact that we see her past relationships too, even though they’re just a couple of them, because she really doesn’t have much of an identity except for when she starts to stand on our own two feet and become more confident because of it now… I mean, the whole movie is really just like an advertisement for analysis.
Erin: And we see her with her high school boyfriend, and she looks like exactly the way Alvy predicts that she would look like: an astronaut’s wife. You know, she has that real like beehive hairdo and so she’s sort of with one type of person, so she adapts to him and dresses in that kind of way. And then when she’s with the actor, she’s wearing that sort of like white tank top and jeans. You know, she looks very, like, raw and real or whatever. And then she sort of starts dressing a little bit more like… I mean, she’s already kind of a quirky dresser when, of course, when Woody Allen sees her. But she starts wearing, like slightly, I think, darker colors, maybe… maybe that’s just my imagination, when she’s around him and sort of adapting more to him. And so there’s a sense of her fungibility and her… the fact that she has a personality. And, you know, maybe this is just like part of being a woman too, is that, you know, women are in these types of relationships, are sort of, like expected to adapt to the man and to make themselves over according to what the man wants. But there is a sense, I think, that they’re on the same wavelength, even though we can see how they’re wrong for each other. That, like, lobster scene, for instance, which she… I love the fact that he tries to recreate that with another woman towards the end of the movie…
Wes: Yes, that’s right.
Erin: …because it also kind of highlights how ridiculous the whole situation is anyway, like, how did those lobsters get on the floor? And how did one of them get behind the…
Wes: …the wire. There’s so many of them.
Erin: Right. Yeah.
Wes: I mean, it tells us that he’s contrived, to some extent, right, and that his neurosis and his… is a strategy, it’s a contrivance, right? And part of it is to get women, like he’s actually using it. He’s using his whining and his nervousness, and it’s because it’s funny. He can turn it into something funny then. So it serves a purpose, and it helps him get women.
Erin: You know, it reminds me of two movies. It reminds me, of course, of like, Vertigo. Or he’s just trying to recreate, you know, the past experience with Annie. But it also reminds me of the scene in The Lady Eve where Stanwyck’s character is… she’s fallen in love with Henry Fonda once, as herself, sort of, as this character named Jean, and then she falls in love with him again, or gets him to fall in love with her again as this British woman named Eve and the first time they fall in love, Henry Fonda gives her this beautiful speech on the prow of a boat about how he sees them going way back, like they were always in love with each other, even as children and he gives this, like incredibly beautiful speech and they’re so in love. And then later on, when she’s sort of having her revenge on him by kind of pretending to be someone else, he gives her the same speech. So upsetting! And it’s cut by… you know, it’s a comedy, so it’s cut by the fact that there’s this horse behind him that keeps like, like nuzzling him as he’s trying to give this speech. But the contrivance of…
Wes: Horses know. They know what is going on.
Erin: Yeah, right, they know. [laughter] They can smell it. No, but the idea that this just becomes a line for him, you know that he takes something sacred and turns it into something not so sacred and a little bit icky because he uses it again. Or maybe the idea that love is always a performance, you know, even in its most authentic moments, that this is just a contrivance and maybe was from the beginning, you know, it’s something that always bothered me in that film, that interesting tension and the fact that Alvy does that here with the lobster scene and then… and that sort of prefigures what he’s going to do with his playwriting, where he’s going to rewrite, you know, everything. That idea that something so authentic can be produced on dubious circumstances is really interesting to me.
Wes: Yeah, I think there’s the fantasy there that he can use that lobster day to transform this woman right into what he wants into another Annie Hall. Or maybe not Annie Hall specifically, but into what he wants, in the way that he made Annie Hall project and tried to make her what he wanted and sort of by injecting himself, right. I said, Annie Hall is neurotic, but he, as you pointed out, really puts her through the wringer and maximizes that and does everything to turn her into him. Obviously, he’s not… this woman… He’s not gonna be able to do that. She’s like, “What? Are you kidding? You’re a grown man.” [laughter]
Erin: Yeah. [laughter]
Wes: You should be able to pick up a lobster. [laughter]
Erin: That woman is actually the hero of the…
Wes: Yeah, yeah, and it’s that lobster scene, of course, that, you know, makes him realize that he wants her back and, you know, sends him to California. Despite that it induces nausea and him just by being there to try to retrieve her. I’m thinking now of Orpheus. I don’t really know if that makes sense, but anyway, [laughter] it’s his hell, at least that he’s trying to get her out of. And, of course, she’s right to say no. She’s moved on. Her growth… at a certain point he’s trying to hold her back, right. She had that second… the second time she’s singing at the club, where she’s so confident and she’s so good at it. Tony Lacey is talking about label to her and asks them to go to a party. I mean, how selfish is it, that he basically, you know, says “no, you remember that thing we have”. That’s a big, big deal, that he’s interfering with that and that she’s letting him interfere with that. And that, of course, becomes her destiny, which is to go to California and be with Tony Lacey, not date him but be mentored by him or whatever and have some success, and that’s what he was trying to hold her back from. So it’s not… of course it’s not in a typical dynamic in a relationship.
Erin: What do you think motivates the fact that he just immediately shuts that down? Is it that he wants to be the performer in the relationship? And he can’t let her get sort of too big for her britches because then she won’t want to be with him. Or it’s interesting, too, that Paul Simon plays that role [laughter] because, you know, it’s like he’s threatened by another short guy who’s like…
Wes: He does come across as really creepy in the movie… I think.
Erin: He does. He does. I don’t know if it’s just because he’s a bad actor or what. I mean, I love Paul Simon…
Erin: …but it’s just funny that they’re both too short guys. And Paul Simon is like, just like a better looking version of Woody Allen. [laughter]
Wes: Super, super laid back. But it’s so laid back that it’s like…could be…
Erin: Right and that he’s… like Paul Simon is just like such a New York guy, too. So maybe he’s trying to affect what someone from California would be like. [laughter]
Erin: But yeah, I mean, I don’t… I mean, even the first time that she sings, he’s obviously very impressed by her, Alvy, he is obviously very impressed by her and does compliment her, you know, which is great, and gives her that kind of attention. But then he kind of… when she wants to talk about it a little bit more, he does that thing where, which is kind of cute about, like, getting the kiss out of the way. But he does kind of, like, interrupt her and cut her off a little bit. And then the next scene they are at the diner and she’s making that gesture at trying to live up to his expectations by ordering that disgusting sandwich.
Erin: [laughter] The pastrami with, like, mayo on white bread or something.
Wes: Are they at Katz’s? Is that Katz’s? Is that there?
Erin: I think so. Um…
Wes: Yeah. Have you ever been there?
Erin: Yeah. Anyway, yeah. So he does seem to appreciate that about her, but he does kind of cut it off or change the subject as she wants to go into it a little bit more. And maybe the first time around you think, okay, they’re sort of moving the plot along, or he’s given her enough of a nod. But then that becomes suspect when she really does get some serious attention for her singing and he won’t even go to that party. I don’t know. I’m curious what you think that his motivation is for that.
Wes: Well, I think, with the kiss, he doesn’t want to tolerate, as he says, you know, the awkwardness of everything that comes before that. So get that out of the way, which says a lot, right? Like I said, he’s allergic to the present and he wants everything to have happened and so to be safer and more secure. Her success is a threat, I think, for various reasons, including if she’s successful, she might be taken away from him, she won’t need him as much. She will belong to circles of important people, and she could find someone who’s more important than him. So it’s threatening in that sense. And also, you know, it represents a kind of psychological growth that could lead her away from him, right? He wants to stay stuck. He wants to stay in a kind of immature state, and so he actually needs her to stay immature as well, and any maturation is gonna be a threat, because she will have to move on if he’s not also making some sort of progress. And like I said, the progress only occurs at the level of the aesthetic object, only at the level of the film, which is one of the, you know, things that I think makes this great attention between those two things. You know, the ingredients of the film are his immaturity, and his funniness is kind of a manic defense against all this stuff. But the overall tone of the film and its nature as an aesthetic object is not manic, but a form of mourning and acceptance of loss. So kind of a form of maturation, but not for him as a character. So, yeah, she does need to get away from him.
Erin: You know, one way in which a movie like this might have ended is that, you know, she continues to sort of make bad relationship choices. He continues to, you know, he can be the same as he is, you know, looking back on this relationship and still being alone and feeling kind of stuck. But she could be in that same situation where she goes from relationship to relationship and is never quite satisfied. But instead, I think the movie pays her a great compliment in that it allows her to be sort of triumphant and to really mature and come into her own and become self actualized… whatever. And it highlights the inherent sadness of that, the Alvey character. She’s been able to escape his clutches and therefore can move on, and that he’s someone who just is stagnation for other women and, like a way station for people. Yeah, I think it’s very poignant at the end because, as you say, like the fact that the movie acknowledges that and lets her grow and then be free is like a further self critical element that she’s not stuck in the same patterns as he is. Or even as we might expect someone like her to be, because she does seem to kind of glom onto these guys and to adapt to them that she’s not just doing that now. She’s actually come into her own. So it pays her, I think, a big compliment, the film.
Wes: Yeah, so there’s that scene where they run into each other again at the theater, right?
Wes: …on the Upper West Side, and they’re both with someone new and you get this shot from very far away of these two couples shaking hands. And by the way, I think his date is Sigourney Weaver.
Erin: It is.
Wes: Yeah, it’s pretty funny.
Erin: “Shout out to my sister.” You’ll know what I mean by that.
Wes: Ok… Ok…
Erin: No, it’s just this joke that my sister and I have, because this one summer I realized she hadn’t seen the Alien movies, so I watched them with her…
Wes: Oh, wow!
Erin: …and yeah, it was really… it was awesome. And then we both got on this like Sigourney Weaver kick, and we called it the great Weaver fan of, like, 2018 or so, (I forget when we watched it) but anyway, and we watched tons and tons of movies, Sigourney Weaver, and then we tried to be like, “Okay, let’s not watch a Sigourney Weaver movie.” And we watched Finding Dory without realizing that there’s like this joke in it that Sigourney Weaver is… plays a voice in it and says her own name over and over [laughter] and over again. And so now whenever Sigourney Weaver, like, shows up unexpectedly in a movie, like we have in Annie Hall, we joke about that, and some other things, about how she’s like following us, and she’s our friend secretly without knowing it. Anyway, yeah.
Wes: That’s awesome. No, it’s funny. For some reason, I started to think of Jeff Goldblum because he also has a cameo. [laughter]
Erin: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, So many cool people show up in here.
Wes: He forgets his mantra.
Erin: And I love Carol Kane, too.
Wes: Oh yeah, Beverly D’Angelo is in the sitcom, Max’s sitcom, another ex-props sitcom. But I was going to say, you know, after that meeting and he says… she is taking him to see The Sorrow and the Pity, which she felt happy about that and its effect on her. And then there’s that montage where they’re thinking of all the kicking around, all the old times.
Erin: The idea that he’s with Sigourney Weaver too, is like it’s a wide shot and it’s kind of from far away. But we can also just tell that he’s going to continue making bad relationship decisions, if only for the… with the contrast in height between the two of them. [laughter]
Wes: [laughter] Right.
Erin: Like it’s kind of a visual gag a little bit. I mean, you know, she could be right for him, but just the idea that we only see them from this long shot and that she’s 6 ft tall, Sigourney Weaver, and he’s… you know, what? 5’4”/ 5’5”…
Erin: It just shows like they’re an odd… They are a mismatch…
Erin: …as usual. Yeah.
Wes: Yeah, that’s a good point. He’s continuing to do his thing. Yeah, there’s no there’s no sense that he himself has changed as a person and which is okay. I mean, like I said, it’s the film itself that reflects that change. But there is something about them, you know, like I said, there’s a nostalgic element and the kind of mourning element of them kicking around the old times. You know, and then there’s a book-end to the beginning where he’s talking about an old joke, right? He says that there’s that old joke, which is, you know, the way everything begins and it’s a similar sentiment. Someone goes to a psychiatrist, says “My brother is crazy.” He thinks he’s a chicken, and the psychiatrist says, “Why not turn him in?” And he says, “I would. But we need the eggs.” [laughter]
Wes: And so that’s how Alvy feels about relationships. They’re crazy, they’re absurd, but we keep going through them because we need the eggs. That’s a variation on this idea about the, you know, the terrible food, but the portions are too small. At least he’s moved on from food to relationships, right?
Erin: And to a mutual delusion, right? A shared delusion.
Wes: What do you…? How do you mean that?
Erin: Well, because, you know, he does believe, on a certain level, that his brother is producing eggs, right?
Wes: Yeah, Right, Now, that’s very good. I don’t know if I actually fully [laughter] thought that through.
Erin: I guess there’s a hint of that, too, at the beginning. So maybe this doesn’t hold up because they’re two women at the Catskills sharing this experience and the implicit nodding of the other woman in that joke [laughter] is, maybe, part of the joke. But just at the end, that he says, “Well, we need the eggs.” So the idea is that he also, on some level, believes that his brother is a chicken and that they’re going to then, I don’t know, like use the bounty from that shared delusion to sustain them…
Wes: Right. Right.
Erin: …and to keep them coming, right, Even though the sustenance, like, doesn’t exist, he’s not really a chicken, but they’ve both, like, bought into this idea, it’s still a brother relationship, and so it’s still related to that. The Catskills joke is like a, you know, a joke that comes out of his particular heritage and his way of looking at things. Um, and there’s still that, like genetic quality by saying “his brother” in the joke at the end. But there is something… I don’t know… maybe more… maybe I’m reading too much into this, but more inherently productive about… even though it’s a false production, about that ending joke that maybe represents some movement on his part or some maturation.
Wes: Now that’s great, because it’s not just that, you know, as I was saying, that it’s… this is a recapitulation of other’s suffering, but we want more, but he’s doing it with relationships instead of food. But as you point out, it’s that we need something from them that, in a way, doesn’t exist. We keep coming back for something that we can’t really get from them, and that… there’s a virtue to doing it anyway.
Erin: Yeah, which is kind of the… also a development of that argument at the beginning, right? Why does anything matter? Why do we do anything if everything’s just gonna expand and then break apart.
Wes: Right. Right. They’re gonna break apart, just like the relationships will break apart, just like the universe. And we do it for those… “well, we enjoy it while we can, Alvy.” [laughter]
Erin: Right. [laughter]
Wes: Brooklyn is not gonna be expanding for billions of years. [laughter]
Wes: You’re reminding me of your earlier comment about Epicurious and focusing on the pleasure as it is now. And I found that interesting because it reminded me that the movie… you know, Woody Allen wanted to call this movie Anhedonia…
Wes: …or lack of pleasure, an inability to experience pleasure, which I think it’s good that it’s not called that because I don’t think it’s simply about the inability to experience pleasure and the idea that he should just embrace and enjoy life while he can, because one day it will be gone. You know, as I’ve said before, I think it’s… we also have to give some sort of meaning to suffering. We have to embrace it, in some sense, we have to… This is kind of an existentialist reading, maybe somewhat justified, since [laughter] Annie Hall was reading both far at one point, but you embrace the suffering by giving meaning to it, by embracing the process of chasing the eggs, even though you’re not… that’s not really what you’re going to get out of it. So Beauvoir would characterize this in terms of… we try to fill up our emptiness, our sense of a lack with these absolutes. You know, I’m going to find the right person, I’m gonna embrace some sort of ideology. And those things she sees as dangerous because they could even lead to things like fascism, where you… the ideals are becoming more important than particular human lives, and they justify anything. And they also stop you from growth; they stop you from being open, being free. And so the focus, instead, becomes on freedom. That includes being an artist or being creative or work in general. That is… sort of once again becomes the solution to all of these things. So we don’t look for final answers or going back to our Keats episodes. We embrace some sense of negative capability, but that means that we continue our seeking. We don’t simply give up.
Erin: That’s really good. Also like the fact the word… this is just one long miniseries. [laughter]
Erin: Annie Hall and Keats around the same continuum.
Wes: Exactly. I even got a little little Macbeth in there.
Erin: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
Wes: All right. Well, La-di-da.Erin: La-di-da.