This project is a collection of sources that discuss the idea of Woody Allen as one of Hollywood's most auteurist of filmmakers, because his films, particularly Annie Hall (1977), are autobiographical, based on his personal philosophy on life, and have a recognizable style. The recognizable Woody Allen style and persona is exemplified in the Academy Award-winning Annie Hall (1977), in which Woody Allen writes, directs, and stars. The sources cover information about autobiographical documentary, whose techniques are used in Allen's films; timely written articles about Woody Allen before and after he became a filmmaker; essays that discuss Allen's career and other similarities between his personal life and films; and writing that discusses both sides of the argument for and against the autobiographical quality of Annie Hall. With all of these sources and the quotes from Woody Allen himself, one must admit the amount of self-reflection Allen uses, but the extent to which film events are impressed upon Allen's private life may be exaggerated. The final sources gauge the reception and reaction to Woody Allen's work - how his persona and style have seeped into the consciousness of his audiences and created an image and brand name (which was created and has endured whether or not one can conclusively say that it is factual) out of the real Woody Allen.
Call#: Van Pelt Library CT25 .L27 2002
Jim Lane’s book on the autobiographical documentary briefly mentions Woody Allen as Lane discusses the move from literary to cinematic autobiography. However, this source is mainly used as a reference to the development of the film autobiography in America, its techniques, and the issues with producing these kinds of films.
The first chapter is particularly helpful in a discussion of Woody Allen’s autobiographical elements. This chapter is concerned with the historical connections between the written autobiography and those on film. Lane discusses the film history that preceded and influenced autobiographical film, and these movements in film in the 1950s and 1960s are also strong influences on Woody Allen, whose films arrive around the time of the autobiographical films discussed by Lane (around the 1960s-1970s and further into the 1990s). Lane writes about the avant-garde of the 1960s documentaries and how these filmmakers sought a more personal take on their society, their lives, and the events in the world. He also discusses the influence of European films, which brought reflexivity to the autobiographical documentary. This technique is particularly relevant to Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, as Allen constantly acknowledges the camera and comments on the fantasy world that can be created by filmmaking.
In this same chapter, Lane discusses the motivations of the autobiographical documentarian, writing that they seek to expand their personal perception into a broader cultural or social frame. This motivation is often applied to Woody Allen’s work in other sources, particularly stating that the topics of his films and the underlying themes comment on the society at large.
The film techniques mentioned in another chapter of Lane’s book are also used in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall. These include the aforementioned film reflexivity, direct address to the camera, strong narrative voice, and open or loose endings.
Written by the psychologist Dee Burton, this book compiles and analyzes her patients' dreams, which involve Woody Allen. This source describes the many facets of the Woody Allen persona while identifying the place that Woody Allen holds in the minds of his audience and what he has come to symbolize. Woody Allen is perceived as an artist, a friend, a lover, and a quiet thinker that one wants to get to know. The many incarnations of Woody Allen in his films have made him identifiable, relatable, and a moldable image.
Burton points out that Woody Allen’s philosophy on life – on morality, mortality, sexuality, and constant struggles between the self and society – delve into the subjects that people consider everyday on a subconscious level. Woody Allen, known to be an avid fan of psychoanalysis, bled his philosophy and his psychoanalytical tendencies into his films, and as a result, he has become a symbol for openness, genius, and an aspiration toward understanding oneself. As Woody Allen absorbs himself into his films through his roles, writing, and marginally (or not so marginally) autobiographical touches, Allen begins to feel like a friend who one is comfortable with but who one desires to know in even more depth. Some element of his personality – whatever element from whatever personal perception or Woody Allen film – touches his audience members, and the dreams compiled in this book are a testimony to the influence that Woody Allen has had over his audience in a lingering way, particularly through his roles and the illusion of autobiography in his film.
Another interesting fact from this book is that Annie Hall is favorite film among these compiled Woody Allen dreamers, perhaps because Annie Hall is one of his most autobiographical films, where he even addresses the audience with private thoughts and his imaginative portrayals. Still, Burton makes a clear distinction between Woody Allen and Dream Woody. These dreamers have simply identified with the Woody Allen film persona and internalized this identification, which supports the argument that through his films, Woody Allen has created a variation on the auteurist cinema, where he has not only made recognizable films in a recognizable style, but he has also created an onscreen persona that has rendered a lasting offscreen impression.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.A45 B35 2001
This book studies the cinematic techniques that Woody Allen employs in his films, and the third chapter, entitled “Getting Serious: The Antimimetic Emblems in Annie Hall,” analyzes the reflexivity in the scenes of Annie Hall.
Bailey argues that Annie Hall is full of antimimetic emblems – “scenes in which realistic cinema rendering is sacrificed to the expression of a different sort of truth” (37). The writer also argues that Allen uses these scenes as a transition from his comedic style to a more dramatic tone in his films. Ironically, Allen blurs the line between reality and imagination through these techniques to reveal the reality of the scenes. Essentially, instead of undercutting the world of the film, these style choices actually draw the audience into further believing the person onscreen, because Alvy/Allen expresses understandable and common sentiments openly, as when Alvy draws out Marshall McLuhan and acknowledges the unrealistic nature of the act along with the universal desire for such a thing to be possible. Bailey credits these emblems and their effects with giving Allen’s films more weight and lasting quality. These elements take Allen’s work beyond that of other filmmakers of comedies, like Mel Brooks, by getting the audience to feel for the comedic character rather than distance themselves so they can comfortably point and laugh. The essay goes on to visually analyze several scenes in Annie Hall where the subjectivity of the Allen’s character comments on or reveals some other truth about the situation, as in the scenes with Annie’s family and brother.
This source is useful for the discussion of Woody Allen and Annie Hall, because just as Woody Allen’s life does, the film plays with and revels in the mixing of reality and fantasy, of the actual events and the imagined. The delicate interplay between audience and fimmaker/actor relies on this personal, stream-of-consciousness technique in filmmaking - also used in autobiographical documentary. This source allows one to bring Allen’s work to comment on an additional layer of his personal life or, more accurately, on the difficulty of distinguishing between fact and fiction in Allen’s life and Annie Hall.
This article presents a biased point of view of Woody Allen’s real life, depicting him as a contradiction, mystery, and possibly even a hypocrite. After succinctly delineating the persona that Woody Allen carries as an intellectual, shy, funny, and neurotic New Yorker, the article gives a detailed account of Woody Allen’s personal everyday life, removed from all of the personality that has stuck to the distinctive image of Woody Allen.
The title of the article, “The Conflicting Life and Art of Woody Allen,” establishes the point of the article: The writer attempts to list and question the many contradictions within Woody Allen’s life. Most of the contradictions come from what Woody Allen says versus what he actually does, such as a purported “disinterest for material wealth” versus the Rolls Royce that Woody Allen uses to go around New York City. The writer bases many impressions of Woody Allen on the film roles, and in some instances, the writer undoes this cinematic persona of Woody Allen with descriptions of his real life. In other instances, the image of Woody Allen says one thing, such as that he chases many women, while Allen makes comments that contradict this idea. However, in the case of women-chasing, Allen’s friend Tony Roberts laughs at Allen’s contradiction of the promiscuous Woody Allen persona. The line between reality and film becomes complicated as the line becomes an intersection between reality, film, AND self-image.
The article oscillates between Allen’s perception, the writer’s perception, and the perception of close friends. The article does not answer the questions about the contradictions in Allen’s life, but rather raises these questions through this new and thorough information and the confusion through the varying opinions and images of Woody Allen. The final statement of the article is made by Tony Roberts, personally describing the enigma of Woody Allen and his ambivalence toward fame and the way that Allen chooses to live. The article simply concludes with the idea that outsiders will never truly know Woody Allen, because he is ultimately the one in control of what people know. This statement harkens back to the ideas that Woody Allen has molded the image and that his life may not actually reflect the onscreen Woody Allen, and that is exactly how he meant it to be. Perhaps, Woody Allen should simply be viewed as a shrewd self-advertisement and manipulator.
This perspective on the issue of fact versus fiction in Woody Allen's life adds to the considerations of the autobiographical quality of Annie Hall, while allowing one to view Annie Hall, as a vehicle for an image through exaggeration and the direct contact with the audience.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.A45 M43 2000
This book takes a more biographical slant to Woody Allen’s work, going through his life and the filming of his movies rather than studying the movies to deduce Allen’s characteristics and real life references.
The prologue to the book describes the scandal with Mia Farrow and Soon-Yi. However, this aspect of the prologue is only useful in its juxtaposition with the description of the overall appeal and greatness of Woody Allen. Meade briefly goes over the benchmarks in Woody Allen’s career, such as his change from stand-up comedy to film, but more importantly, Meade expresses the popularity and the special attributes that make Woody Allen a household name. The biographer discusses the recognizable appearance, the Chaplin references, and the breadth of his film career. Meade lists Allen’s praises as an artist and writer for his originality, independence from the Hollywood establishment, and his intelligence. The writer sees Allen as an auteur, who breathes himself into life in his films through his control over the many stages of filmmaking. In this prologue, Meade stresses that Woody Allen has survived several controversies in his public personal life, and his fans remain with him because of the love of his films and his persona.
The seventh chapter of the book “A Picture about Me” focuses on the Woody Allen’s life during the making of Annie Hall. Allen is quoted as saying that the film was about him in its ideas, thoughts, and background, and despite the title, Meade points out that Annie is not the main character. The film was originally titled “Anhedonia” – the inability to experience pleasure – focusing on Allen’s own perception of life in his forties. In vivid passages, Meade describes the relationship between Allen and Keaton, the writing process, and the input of other film executives, who were particularly against the depressing original title. The chapter describes the postproduction process, the public reaction to the film, the increased focus and building of the Woody Allen persona that resulted from the success, and Allen’s reactions to the attention. This section of the article is particularly different from the other sources, because the depiction of Woody Allen at the time of Annie Hall’s success stands out when compared to the image that the public was painting of Allen at the time.
This introduction is useful for this project, because it describes Allen as a film auteur, who also went beyond his films and became a household name. The chapter establishes how “onscreen Woody” was a creation of the public imagination, dramatizing the differences between the image and Allen's actual feelings and actions.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.A3 A5676 1987
This book contains several essays about Woody Allen and his work. The second chapter – entitled “Will the Real Little Man Please Stand Up?” – discusses the question of the real Woody Allen versus the onscreen Woody Allen. Pogel argues that more and more critics are treating Woody Allen separately from his creation. Allen even argues that point, and in interviews, he does not appear as the man from the movies. Thus, Pogel pursues that any understanding of Woody Allen based on his films would be incomplete and unconvincing.
Pogel runs through Allen’s private, rigid daily routine, juxtaposing it to the scatter-brained characters that he writes and portrays in his films. The author paints him in the most normal actions and emphasizes the simplicity rather than the exaggerated character associated with Woody Allen. Pogel comments on Woody Allen as a writer, a comedian, a filmmaker, and a businessman drifting away from the everyday man that she initially depicts.
Still, as the chapter continues, Pogel begins to draw similarities between Allen and his “little-man” characters. The discussion at the end of the first section of this chapter comments on Allen’s feelings about politics, being Jewish, and romance, using small references to their infusion into his films. However, Pogel continues to resist the temptation to equate Woody Allen with his onscreen persona. Quotes of Allen’s comments on those subjects are taken from interviews rather than films, although his films do bring up the same opinions to some degree.
The second part of the chapter draws a line between Allen and his characters citing the ambiguities that surround Woody Allen’s personal life, particularly his childhood. The author ponders why Allen would withhold private details, suggesting that Allen may want the audience to consider the broader implications of the film rather than focus on the film as a personal introspection. The chapter goes on to detail Allen’s childhood and written and stand-up comedy career, never mentioning the similarities to his film persona.
This source opposes the idea that the filmmaker Woody Allen is the Woody Allen character in his films, and despite its sound arguments, the essay can also be seen as the extent to which one must avoid the connections between Allen and his onscreen persona to uphold this perspective in this debate.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.A45 W66 2001
This collection of essays on Woody Allen contains one particularly relevant essay, entitled “Woody Allen: The Relationship between the Persona and its Author” (Marie-Phoenix Rivet). This essay considers the creation of the persona that Woody Allen wrote for many of his films and portrayed in many of his films. The writer quotes Allen, who describes the emergence of this persona as unintentional and molded by Woody Allen’s physical appearance. Allen’s comedy and his comic persona place him in the ranks with the comic stars of the silent film era, including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and Allen even admits to his persona’s modeling after these past, great, successful characters/filmmakers. The influences of their films are also evident in Allen’s own film gags. The connection between Woody Allen and Charlie Chaplin even reaches to their filmmaking styles, artistic temperaments, the level of control that they possessed over their films, their negative world view, and the split between two fictional characters – one onscreen, one off-screen.
The essay shifts from describing Allen’s film influences to his cultural influences on his persona. His Jewish origins and his contemporary American life identify his character, and although Allen says that his Jewish origins are simply part of his subconscious, the writer argues that Allen manipulates this element of the persona purposely, which is often portrayed negatively in his films.
The third issue that the writer brings up in this essay about the Woody Allen persona is the reflection of Allen’s personal life on his films. Although Allen denies this self-referential aspect of his films, the many resemblances and the creation and portrayal by Woody Allen are difficult for the writer to deny, and the writer emphasizes that a major part of the persona is precisely egotism. Elements of the narrative style, such as the direct address to the camera in Annie Hall, creates the illusion that the writer, director, and actor is the character that he plays. He hires friends; he invokes psychoanalysis, of which he has been under for thirty-five years; and he shares the persona’s ambivalence to fame.
The writer describes the major facets of the persona and then analyzes the audience’s relationship to the persona, describing it as a mixture of identification and rejection. Ultimately, the writer concludes that the persona is so influential and ingrained that audiences continue to seek Woody Allen in them and do so successfully, whether or not the real Woody Allen was actually or meant to be put into the work at all.
This New York Times article - written in 1977 the year of the film’s release - is concerned with Annie Hall, initially title Anhedonia. The article draws on many quotations from Woody Allen about the film, amassing the information into Woody Allen's take on the film. It is a fairly unbiased, informational article about the film that also comments on the relationship between Woody Allen’s life and the events of the film.
In the beginning of the article, Allen is questioned about the comments that the film is taken directly from Allen’s life, and he denies the claim, saying that only certain details are taken from his life. Allen cites bits of character information that were drawn from reality, such as that he is friends with Tony Roberts, but he also defends his position by picking out some facts that are works of fiction, such as Alvy’s wives. The writer goes even further in depth to support Allen’s claim that the film is basically fiction by telling the story of the house under the roller coaster, which was clearly not Allen's real childhood home but something Allen felt was perfect for the character of Alvy, who is treated as a distinctly separate entity from the filmmaker. However, at the same time, the writer necessarily admits that Woody Allen initially planned to use his actual hometown of Flatbush for the film.
Also, the writer notes Diane Keaton’s role in the film and in Allen’s life, simply claiming that the relationship on film and in real life are parallels. The article goes on to describe the similarities between Keaton and her character, and the line between the film world and the real world gets even blurrier. However, as seen in other sources, Allen contests public opinion that the film reflects his life particularly strongly when connections are drawn between Alvy’s and Allen’s relationship to Annie and Keaton.
Anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure and the original title of the film, is described as the diagnosis for Alvy Singer, but when asked if it is also Allen’s problem, Allen indirectly answers the question by saying that he believes that everyone suffers from it. The title of the article “Woody Allen Fights Anhedonia” undoes this universality and places Allen as Alvy, just as the end of the article attempts to do by painting Woody Allen’s comedic, real life stories in a cinematic and exaggerated fashion - classic Woody Allen as the public knows him.
This article is particularly relevant, because it harps on the idea that Woody Allen depicts his real life in film. Though the article does not come to any conclusion on the matter, the writer does a good job of clearly outlining the issue of autobiography versus fiction, wondering what is real and what is not.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.A45 L44 1997
This book analyzes Woody Allen’s films based on philosophical theories and trends, and the second chapter is entitled “A Therapeutic Autobiography: Annie Hall (1977).” This chapter is a particularly useful analysis of the scenes in the film that have specific, directed commentaries about Woody Allen’s views on life, love, values, and responsibility.
The beginning of this chapter brings up the important point that Woody Allen rejects the idea that Annie Hall is autobiographical. Allen claims that all his films have a few true facts in them, but presumably that is the limit. Although Lee acknowledges this point, the chapter continues to remark on the continuity within Woody Allen’s film repertoire and refers to Allen’s private life within the commentary on the film and the philosophical ideas. The elements of philosophy are attributed to Woody Allen himself, presumably because he co-wrote the film, but throughout the chapter, the sense that these are part of Woody Allen’s philosophy is always present. Lee even comments on the name “Alvy” sounding much like the beginning of “Allen” with the ending of “Woody” and how Diane Keaton’s real last name is Hall. Lee refers to other Woody Allen films to support the philosophical ideas and explain some offhand comments in these movies. For example, Lee explains Rob’s calling Alvy “Max” by referring to the film Hannah and her Sisters and Woody Allen’s admiration of Ingmar Bergman, who worked frequently with actor Max von Sydow.
The explanation of the chapter's title is made clear in the onset of the chapter as Lee describes the film as a series of psychotherapy sessions, in which Alvy tries to explain all his actions and free him of confusion or guilt. This idea is linked to the basis of some autobiographical documentaries, according to Jim Lane's book. This theory is that filmmakers make personal films to attempt to impose order, understanding, and rationality on their lives.
This discussion of Annie Hall describes the film thoroughly, and the continuity that the writer draws between the life of Woody Allen, a philosophy on life that emerges in other Woody Allen films, and the events in Annie Hall supports the argument that the image of film Woody Allen is almost inextricable from the real Woody Allen.
This article from The New York Times in 1962 is a first-hand account of Woody Allen before he became a filmmaker. The article advertises Woody Allen as a relatively unknown comedian, who will be performing at The Bitter End in the Village. Woody Allen is journalistically described as a rising comedian, and the majority of the article is about the material that Allen performs, quoting many of his jokes. This melding of article and advertisement illustrates the humble beginnings that are so often noted in his biographies, and in reference to Annie Hall, this article could very well be used to advertise Alvy Singer, the stand-up comedian character that is played by Allen himself in the film. Similarities between Alvy and Woody as comedian and previous sketch writer can be noted from this account of the real Woody Allen prior to his career in filmmaking.
This article is an interesting piece on Woody Allen, because it perceives Allen as he has been in his films, seeing the real Woody Allen in real life the way another character in his film sees Woody Allen’s characters: Watching his films, the audience member is a fly on the wall, although Allen does use certain techniques to close this gap. However, in this article, Woody Allen is the Alvy Singer character, and the reader is given the chance to see him as if one were in Annie Hall watching his act. The writer comments that Allen draws on his personal life for his stand-up routine, documenting the beginnings of this trend, which will be extended into the several decades of Allen’s films that follow.
This image of Woody Allen from forty years ago is how the persona of Woody Allen stands today. The opening description of Woody Allen’s onstage appearance – the clothes, the posture, the expressions, and the attitude that made him unique – could be a description of the Woody Allen of Annie Hall or the contemporary Woody who continues to make films and haunt his beloved New York City.