Annie Hall (US - BD RA)
Jonathan revisits his favourite Woody Allen film in high definition..
Alvy Singer (Allen) is one of Manhattan's most brilliant comedians, but when it comes to romance, his delivery needs a little work. Introduced by his best friend, Rob (Tony Roberts), Alvy falls in love with the ditzy but delightful nightclub singer Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). When Alvy's own insecurities sabotage the affair, Annie is forced to leave Alvy for a new life - and lover (Paul Simon) - in Los Angeles. Knowing he may have lost Annie forever, Alvy's willing to go to any lengths - even driving L.A.'s freeways - to recapture the only thing that ever mattered... true love. (From the Fox synopsis)
Woody Allen is arguably the most prolific director of all time. The man simply cannot stop making movies, and from the look of it he isn't quitting anytime soon. There is an incredible range between some of his films, and while they vary in quality I've always found something that I like in every one of his motion pictures. He has an approach and a senesibility to his characters that may have tried to imitate and failed. With the recent success of his Oscar-nominated film Midnight in Paris, this is a perfect opportunity to look back at some highlights from his career. Annie Hall is a popular choice for Allen's greatest film (alongside Manhattan which was also recently released), and it is very easy to see why. I consider it a personal favourite. It features him at the height of his unique sense of neurotic sense of humour, insights about modern relationships (which apply today just as well as they did in 1977) and observations on Jewish identity in the modern world.
What separates Annie Hall from other comedies of the time was its bold originality and unrelenting humour. He finds a lot of laughs in negativity and cultural critiquing that weren't the norm for comedy at the time, and there's something awfully contagious about it. It has inspired countless films. Even just the other day I was watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and realized the scene where the two leads are calling out celebrity lookalikes in a bar came straight out of the boardwalk scene from Annie Hall. He uses a variety of techniques like split screens, breaking the fourth wall, isolated narrations and clever crossovers that were totally unique at the time. There's even a brief animated bit. Narrative and the medium of film itself became a tool for Allen to exercise his unique sense of humour, and that was never more true than it was in Annie Hall. Despite all of his goofy antics, Allen and Keaton as the two leads are completely memorable in their own right. They feel real. Maybe because their movie characters reflected their own personal relationship. But regardless of their lives outside the film, it holds up as a cinematic experience and each time I revisit the film there is a warm familiarity to them. I could go on praising the film, but chances are by now you've already seen Annie Hall and have your own opinion on it, so before I go any further let's take a look at how this new Blu-ray holds up.
Annie Hall never saw an impressive release in the age of DVD's, and the only version of it that exists on the format was an atrocious non-anamorphic transfer with an orange appearance. Luckily Fox has done right by this title and released it on Blu-ray without any hiccups. As you can see from the comparison caps, the orange hue is gone and the colours look far more natural. The picture is also opened up to the intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Detail is significantly improved. As expected given the film's age, there is a very noticeable layer of grain over the image that keeps it looking like a nice 35 mm print without ever being too harsh. There are distracting damage marks and instances of dirt scattered about the film, but they're brief and easy to overlook. Digital artefacts are nowhere to be found. Thankfully Fox saw it fit to put this featureless disc on a BD-50 and give the film the high bit rate it deserves. As a result I didn't see any side effects of compression. Every fault is inherent to the age and format of the movie.
Fox has released Annie Hall on Blu-ray with a DTS-HD Master Audio track in monaural sound. Personally I'm not often impressed with old film soundtracks being remixed into 5.1 or 7.1, so the choice to stick with the original monaural mix didn't concern me in the slightest. As with any mono track, all the sound is kept to the front of the room, and that's fine. Annie Hall is not a film of technical achievement, and that is most true in the sound department. Scene after scene it features characters just talking. It's entirely script driven, so there was no need for a fancy surround mix. The only purpose I could see one serving is the rumbling effect of living in a house under a roller coaster. Dialogue levels, the real focus of this track, are just fine. They're noticeably more crisp than the old DVD.
Only a Theatrical Trailer in HD. Woody Allen has gone on record saying he doesn't care for special features, so this should come as no surprise.
Annie Hall hasn't aged a day. It's humour and observations about modern relationships are as relevant today as they ever were. For my money it's one of the greatest comedies of all time. Fox has given the film an impressive 1080p transfer that washes away all terrible memories of the old non-anamorphic DVD, and the lossless monaural audio track is strong and befitting. As expected with a Woody Allen release, there are no special features to be found on the disc aside from a theatrical trailer.
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Jonathan Hogberg
Some material may not be suitable for children
Release Date: 24th January 2012
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English, Dolby Digital 1.0 English, Dolby Digital 1.0 Spanish, Dolby Digital 1.0 French, Dolby Digital 1.0 Portuguese, Dolby Digital 1.0 Italian, Dolby Digital 1.0 German, Dolby Digital 1.0 Catalan
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Catalan, Dutch, Polish
Extras: Theatrical Trailer
Easter Egg: No
Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts
Genre: Comedy, Drama and Romance
Length: 93 minutes
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