Annie Hall

 

Annie Hall

Written by Woody Allen & Marshall Brickman

Edited by Susan E. Morse & Ralph Rosenblum

Photographed by Gordon Willis

Produced by Jack Rollins & Robert Greenhut

Directed by Woody Allen

1977

 

Cast:

Woody Allen

Diane Keaton

Tony Roberts

Carol Kane

Shelley Duvall

Janet Margolin

Christopher Walken

Paul Simon

 

Production:

Theatrical: Rollins-Joffe Productions

Video: MGM

 

Video

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Resolution: 1080p

Codec: AVC

Disc Size: 32 GB

Feature Size: 31 GB

Bit Rate: High (35~40 Mbps)

Runtime: 93 minutes

Chapters: 49

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-MA 2.0

French, German, Italian, Spanish & Japanese DTS 2.0

Portuguese & Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0

 

Subtitles:

Optional English SDH, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese & Spanish

 

Extras: Theatrical Trailer in HD

 

Presentation:

Amaray Blu-ray case: BRD x 1

Street Date: January 24, 2012



Introduction:

In one swell foop on January 24 MGM has made what feels like a 100% increase in the catalogue of classic films for home high definition theatre: Rebecca (1940), Spellbound (1945), Notorious (1946), The Apartment (1960), Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979) - and all but one are in B&W.  One is a popular Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film The Apartment (1960), three are top drawer films from Alfred Hitchcock’s early American period, and two are the best of the best from Woody Allen.


           


The Movie: 10

For devotees of Woody Allen – and I count myself among them - this is the BIG ONE isn’t it!  Historically, it marks not only the start of a Woody’s career as a serious filmmaker, but the first time in forever – not since 1934 in fact – that a comedy, a real comedy, not just a drama with funny bits or witty writing, would win the Best Picture Oscar. And it damn near swept the awards: Direction, Writing, Actress.  Woody was up, but lost to Richard Dreyfuss.  (Of those nominated I would have given it to John Travolta for Saturday Night Fever – “So, you want go out, or what?”)  Oh, and how many comedies since have won?  You guessed it: none.


           

 

There would seem to be something like the same sort of buzz around The Artist for this years Academy Awards – but, be honest, The Artist, charming and clever as it is, isn’t remotely in Annie Hall’s league in a single one of those departments.  I mention this not so much to weigh in on a strong contender for the statue(s) but to place Annie Hall in context.  Consider that movie after-effects: from clothes, to speech (the quotable lines are endless – “Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick,” which, by the way, kind of feels very Groucho for reasons that are obvious once you’ve seen the movie), to movie-making and the presumption that the audience is smarter than its lowest denominator – or should be, or that it’s irrelevant (did speaking to the camera beget Reds or When Harry Met Sally?), to the density of its cultural references . The movies that have done this without the help of after-market toys and the like are few, if any.  Not that a movie has to do that, but it is a measure of its success in the grand scheme of things.

 

I’m going to stop here while I’m behind and turn your attention to what may be Roger Ebert’s finest hour – a review of Annie Hall he wrote in 2002: HERE.  I dare you not to pop in the disc at your next opportunity.


           

 

Image: 8/8

Just about every Woody Allen movie up to about Match Point needs to be revisited.  But image quality suffers most for everything prior to and including Crimes and Misdemeanors.  Generally speaking, the earlier the film, the more miserable the picture quality. So it’s a blessing that MGM has gone back to its sources to begin its “Woody Allen Collection” – and what better choices than Annie Hall and Manhattan.

 

There seems to be some confusion about the proper aspect ratio, seeing as how both the trailer her and earlier DVDs have made it academy ratio 1.33:1.  The IMDB lists it as 1.85:1, which is how we see it here.  Annie Hall has never been razor sharp.  The Blu-ray isn’t either, but density, color (very natural), grain, and depth to some degree are all there.  What isn’t there are scratches or debris, edge enhancement or noise reduction.  Damn near spotless.  MGM took some care with this one.


           

 

Audio & Music: 6/9

As delighted as I am to find the original mono here, and in a lossless format, I am rather surprised that it should sound as pinched as it does.  This is certainly not the case with MGM’s 1940s Hitchcock movies, which have every right to evidence even reedier timbres.  The dialogue is certainly clear enough – no complaints there; but I hear a false emphasis of the upper midrange to help where I think none was needed. 

 

My score of “9” for the music reflects both my appreciation of Woody’s decision to not add a soundtrack as such (except for the initial establishing flashback), but also the choice of Diane Keaton’s sung material and how immediate it comes across in DTS HD-MA.  Her first number especially is a little squeaky, but wonderfully balanced with the clatter of the nightclub.  I might also add that the Blu-ray contains dubs in French, German, Italian, Spanish & Portuguese.  Not being fluent in any of those languages, I can only wonder how well Woody Allen translates in them.


           

 

Extras: 1

Woody doesn’t seem to like commentaries much, as evidenced by the fact that across – what is it now? – some three dozen DVDs he hasn’t recorded any, nor has hardly anyone else – I take it that he gets to decide that.  So all we get here is a nicely rendered theatrical trailer in HD.

 

Recommendation: 9

If you are a reader of this column it is unlikely you are unfamiliar with Woody Allen’s many great films from Annie Hall in 1977 through Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989.  At least six are what are generally considered masterpieces, with Annie Hall being one of the top three, depending on which one you’re watching at the moment, I think.


           


Annie Hall was the first Woody Allen movie for both audiences and the critical establishment to take seriously.  To this day I can’t figure out how its construction, which shouldn’t work, does.  As much as it’s all over the map, the subject remains the same throughout: Relationships - why we need them and why they don’t work.  Not that they can’t work, but many don’t.  Yet the movie is in no way a downer.  Far from it.  Annie Hall is one of the most chuckleable movies, then, before and since.  MGM has given us as good a transfer as we are likely to see for some I imagine, lacking only bonus features.  Warmly recommended.


           

 

Leonard Norwitz

© LensViews

January 31, 2012

 

 

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