Yacowar, Maurice. “Annie Hall.” Loser Take All: The Comic Art of Woody Allen. New York: Continuum Publishing Company, 1991. 171-186.
In Yacowar’s chapter, similar topics are addressed concerning the functions and success of Annie Hall: Alvy’s inability to enjoy life to the fullest, the contrast between Alvy and Annie’s upbringings and identities, and Woody Allen’s use of narrative and humor. The start of the chapter involves a summary of the film, with mention of some of the key elements which make it such a success. The piece is essentially a description of the main themes of the film, most significantly that of the relationship between art and reality. Yacowar first addresses the reoccurring idea of Alvy’s “sifting the pieces” of his relationship with Annie, which results in the blossoming of Annie and the continued confusion of Alvy. He then suggests that Alvy’s “sifting the pieces” is displayed through freely associated memories and ideas that Allen constructs through his use of narrative. It is argued that the narrative employed is what best expresses Alvy’s inability to balance his desire to confront and avoid troubling memories or issues from throughout life. Thus, this chapter, like other chapters and articles, investigates Alvy’s own investigation of his personality and its problems. Alvy cannot handle Annie’s outgrowing of him because he fell in love with his own creation and then lost it, similar to the Pygmalion myth. The chapter then transitions into a more in-depth exploration of the points of climax in Annie Hall and how they differ according to the two main characters’ experiences and personalities. This description further displays how the two characters, regardless of being in a romantic relationship, are individuals interested in their own personal ambitions and issues, first and foremost. Further dramatizing their differences, Yacowar makes use of the dinner table example, where a split screen shows the differences in each family’s habits at dinnertime, to show how the situation is simply “like oil and water.” Yacowar notes that in order to place more emphasis on contrast, Allen places contrast scenes in parallel spots in the plot. By doing this, Allen suggests Alvy’s narrow interests and his eventual alienation by Annie as a result of their differences, as well as the idea that Alvy can never survive any romantic relationship due to his handling of his personality. Yacowar concludes by delving into the topic of art versus life, transitioning by saying that the parallels of Annie Hall point to the fact that art and life are continuous forces. To him, the primary theme of Annie Hall is that art has the power to compensate for the limitations of life. As this is the primary theme, Alvy Singer employs the art of comedy to make up for the immediate and deeper issues complicating his life, such as his obvious differences from Annie.
Yacowar correctly pinpoints Alvy’s artistic use of comedy to substitute for solutions to the issues in his life. Similar to Alvy, many people use a particular talent or habit to avoid handling larger issues in life, and thus audience members could relate to Alvy’s habit when the film premiered. Alvy’s use of comedy is so continuous and so unique that it pushed the film to succeed on many levels.