Thursday, September 12, 2013


Annie Hall remains Diane Keaton's signature role, although she has since given deeper and more demanding performances. She won the Oscar for it, although Keaton herself has written that her own mother, in her journal, wrote that upon watching it, "I only saw Diane, her mannerisms, expressions, dress, hair, etc., the total her...." And Keaton agreed: "Like Mom, I was ... consumed by the 'me' of it all...."
Keaton had even played something of an early version of Annie in one of her first films, also with Woody Allen, Play It Again, Sam (1972). And it's unlikely that Keaton would have won not only the Oscar for Annie Hall, but also the Best Actress awards from the New York Film Critics and from the National Society of Film Critics, had it not been for another 1977 performance in the controversial Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The critics were divided about Goodbar-- but for some it was the performance the year.
And yet as Annie, as Ethan Mordden wrote, "She is to love." Pauline Kael wrote that as "the dazed, iridescent Annie ...  all the time, she emanates warmth--miraculously, naturally. It's in her long-legged softness, in her coloring, her flesh tones, her sunny, broad smile."
Because Keaton is so lightweight as Annie, it's easy to overlook her technical accomplishment. The scene in which Annie meets Alvy after playing tennis is breathtaking--Annie runs a gamut of self-conscious responses, and Keaton is spontaneous but seamless, funny and touching, fanciful and natural--and warm.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Andrew Sarris

“…. Part of the frisson of the Allen-Keaton relationship was obviously derived from a self-conscious magnification of the tension between Jew and gentile. But there were deeper and stronger tensions as well between his intellect and her intuition, his maturity and her eccentricity, his tortured personality and her furtive personality. The pairing is so ridiculously impossible that it becomes indescribably moving. It is moving in the way that Diane Keaton sings "It Had To Be You" and "Seems Like Old Times" in an unexpectedly sweet, high register, and a deliciously delayed tempo in which she almost just misses the beat before scooping down to pick it up as her eyes dart wildly and mischievously from behind her long hair. What is she looking at? The camera? Her ex-lover? The rest of us? Or are her eyes simply glazed over with crazy expectations? It is a strange spectacle, and in its strangedness is its conviction.

“…. One can forgive Allen a great deal for loving New York as much as he does. one can forgive him almost anything for the cinematic valentine he has woven for Diane Keaton….”

Andrew Sarris
Village Voice, date ?

Monday, January 09, 2006

Saturday, April 09, 2005

David Ansen

“Annie Hall is based on Diane Keaton herself (her original name was Hall) but I don't think this makes that much difference. These impossible lovers, who bring to each other a prodigious collection of fears, defenses, insecurities and nervous laughter and who regularly repair to their respective shrinks like boxers between rounds, share the gift that Nick and Nora Charles had, or Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in The Awful Truth: they know how to enjoy each other. [The gross lobster scene:] To watch Alvy and Annie struggling in their kitchen with a live lobster and then to see Alvy repeat his lobster routine with a date who can't appreciate his humor, is a hilariously painful illustration of the dynamics of sexual chemistry.”

“Diane Keaton should only work with Woody Allen. Embarrassingly strained in Harry and Walter Go to New York, shrill and flat in Godfather 2, when she performs for Allen something vulnerable, touching and wonderfully spontaneous emerges. It may not be great acting, but it has magic, and we end up liking this dizzy, tongue-tied woman just as much as Alvy does. Allen himself has never seemed more comfortable acting uncomfortable: there's a new conviction in the way he holds the screen….”

David Ansen
The Real Paper, May 7, 1977

Pauline Kael

“....Diane Keaton has been much luckier. In her Woody Allen comedies, her specialty has been lyrical neurosis--which can be deliriously reassuring to the nervous wrecks in the audience. As Annie Hall, Diane Keaton redeemed the flustered confusion of urban misfits--who fits in this city?--and made it romantic. In ... more conventional roles ..., she seemed a graceful, highly competent comedienne, in a fresh, very American manner. In Woody Allen pictures, this competence is replaced by something more distinctive: she seems helplessly aware of the ineffability of her feelings. She's the mildest form of crazy lady, not threatening to anybody, just bewildered about herself.... The amateurish, self-conscious looseness that Diane Keaton has with Allen works for her.... She turns apologetic self-doubt into a style. When she sings, she lacks a rhythmic sense, but she flirts her way through a song, rolling her clear eyes and acting out the suggestiveness of the lyrics. She becomes a consciously naughty little girl. And all the time she emanates warmth--miraculously, naturally. It's in her long-legged softness, in her coloring, her flesh tones, her sunny, broad smile.

“Diane Keaton draws so much empathy you don't worry too much about her skill. It's there, though. An actress who could retain her grace in the crude muck of I Will, I Will... For Now must have reserves of training.... [T]he dazed, iridescent Annie...”

Pauline Kael
New Yorker, date?
When the Lights Go Down, 316-8
(rev. of Looking for Mr. Goodbar)

David Denby

“…. Woody Allen's new movie, Annie Hall, is a great romantic comedy and extraordinary breakthrough….

“Allen has committed himself to telling the story of his early-'70s affair with Diane Keaton. In Annie Hall he and Keaton play characters so close to their actual selves that quibbling over the discrepancies is a waste of time. As Alvy Singer… Allen wins and then loses the love of Annie Hall (Keaton), a beautiful, ingenuous, confused but intuitively smart young woman from the Midwest. Out of the pain and exhilaration of their affair Allen (with the help of co-writer Marshall Brickman) has created a realistic narrative that holds you emotionally. The comic highs are more daring and a lot more abrasive than before, and because they are part of an emotional progression, they stay in your head afterwards….

“At the risk of sounding ungrateful, I should point out that as good as they are, Woody Allen and Diane Keaton aren't quite Astaire and Rogers or Tracy and Hepburn. Certainly Allen has improved immensely as an actor….

“Allen is a lot more generous to Diane Keaton here than ever before. In Play It Again, Sam and Sleeper she seemed to have little substance apart from her enforced role as a beautiful girl who might go to bed with him or turn him down--she seemed never to escape his fantasies. But finally, in Love and Death (1975) spouting philosophical gibberish with burning eyes and upraised voice Keaton broke into a manic life of her own. Her naiveté is still fresh in Annie Hall: the immense batting eyes, the twisting hands and stammering speech seem produced by the moment at hand rather than layered-on. However, one realizes how easily she could become a brunette Sandy Dennis--all flutter and no center. The movie is entitled after her character's name because she's the one who changes the most, but there's still something vague and undefined about her. The only alternative to her gosh-gee-whiz (I don't care for her singing, which is over-stylized and coy) seems to be a blank, stiff-backed sternness. Possibly Allen overvalues her abilities because he feels comfortable acting with her; her own gentle insecurities cushion his thundering neuroses, and he can get nasty and whiny with her without fear of heavy retaliation. The comic possibilities of his confronting a really domineering type are suggested in one brief, devastating scene after Diane has left him: a tall, dark-haired, young woman--a lawyer, perhaps, or a hospital supervisor--stares at him in incomprehension after he makes a joke. [I think Denby is referring to the misguided pair of “lobster” scenes.] We draw our breath sharply, for an artist has made his point: nothing divides people faster than a different sense of humor.”

David Denby
Boston Phoenix, May 3, 1977
[haven’t read all]

Ethan Mordden

"[Sally] Kellerman is the most seventies of actresses, but who took the fame for the time? Diane Keaton. Here is a talent less adaptable, though Keaton's switchover from Woody Allen comedy (Sleeper, 1973), into epic melodrama (The Godfather, 1972, 1974), into Woody Allen seriocomedy (Annie Hall, 1977) on to artist (Looking for Mr. Goodbar, 1977) is impressive, and was ultimately vindicated by strong work at the top of the 1980s.

"Keaton's range within the Allen films alone is wide. At first, in Play It Again, Sam (1972), she is little more than a foil. By the time of Love and Death (1975) ... she is one of the company farceurs, blithely airheaded, most forceful when the issues are most vague, like an emigrant midwesterner in New York who had adapted its forms but not its content. She is Allen's odd man in, not daffy exactly but the sort of person to whom daffy things happen....

"For many, Annie Hall was the height of Keaton, as much her vehicle as Allen's.... [T]he result is a gem so bright it made Keaton the diva of the age, a trend setter in fashion, an industry heavywieght complete with Oscar, and a critic's darling.

“She is to love. Allen opens the film alone ... speaking into the camera of his love for Annie. We then see them in his element, a Thalia showing of The Sorrow and the Pity. Later, in bed, Keaton wonders how she'd stand up under torture, and Allen tells her, 'The Gestapo would take away your Bloomindale's charge card, you'd tell them everything.' In her dress shirt and tie, vest baggy pants, and floppy hat, Keaton is a ne plus ultra of the WASP style/ She comes from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, has a "Grammy" who gave her the famous tie ..., and orders pastrami on white with lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise. [Wasn't that also Mary Wilkes in Manhattan?].Fitzgerald's Daisy's voice was "full of money." Keaton's voice, when Allen meets her for the last time in Los Angeles, is full of tofu. She tells him, 'You're like New York City.' He broods on art and politics and cannot hold her.

"Indeed, she moved on, out of burlesque. But by then so had Allen.If Annie Hall marked the synthesistic perfection of the jokes he had been telling for a decade, Keaton's role in it was characterological rather than generical.... Keaton successfully emerged from her Annie Hall persona in Reds (1981)....

"Reds is not the great opportunity for Keaton, though she and Beatty both won wide acclaim. Keaton's Annie Hall was most funny when her love relationships were most fragile, most troubled, and this quirk in her persona undercuts her fragile, troubled romance in Reds. There is always a trap in being perfectly cast in a unique part, as with Betty Bronson as Peter Pan or Bette Davis as Margo Channing; one keeps thinking that Keaton will say, 'La-di-da.'...."

Ethan Mordden, Movie Star: A Look at the Women Who Made Hollywood (1983), p. 273-74

Molly Haskell

“.... [Keaton] took me by surprise in Annie Hall, too. There she blossomed into something more than just another kooky dame--she put the finishing touches on a type, the anti-goddess, the golden shiksa form the provinces who looks cool and together, who looks as if she must have a date on Saturday night, but has only to open her mouth or gulp or dart spastically sideways to reveal herself as the insecure bungler she is, as complete a social disaster in her own way as Allen's horny West Side intellectual is in his. A fit of misfits, a pair of compatible insecurities, they are the romantic couple of the seventies. Far from being a throwback to the fifties, they are ultramodern in that they give the lie not only to the cool couples of the past, but to the current myth of sexual liberation and come-easy couplings. But how would Keaton, reflected so large in her lover's eyes, fare outside the sheltered precincts of Woodyland in a straight role?….”

Molly Haskell
New York, October 31, 1977
(rev. of Looking for Mr. Goodbar)

David Thomson

“Diane Keaton won her Oscar in Annie Hall (77, Woody Allen) doing … so little, if you come to think about it, that the award must have been tribute to her likability and to the amiable, cool tolerance exhibited by her character. "Annie Hall" was nearly an -ism in the late seventies, a way of dressing, reacting, and feeling. When people fall in love with an idea, they don't bother to check how much substance it has. Being Woody Allen's best girl then seemed a very hip role; and Keaton was so deadpan cute in her basic attitudes, no matter that her way of talking became as jittery as Woody's. Even that had an edge of parody to it. She had been with Allen in [prior movies], but in Annie Hall it was as if her real self had emerged. Everyone felt good about her.

“Yet, elsewhere, in a very different mood, she had shown herself a real actress….”

David Thomson
A Biographical Dictionary of Film
Third Edition (1994), p ?

Stephen Farber

“One danger of autobiographical fiction is that sometimes the artist doesn't have enough distance on his personal obsessions. In Annie Hall Woody Allen seems unaware of the possibility that some of us may not share his delirious infatuation with Diane Keaton. She has comic gifts, and a modest, dithering kind of charm. But I don't think I am the only one who finds her charms limited. The movie suggests that Alvy Singer loves Annie Hall because she is even more insecure and neurotic than he is; if that also explains Diane Keaton's appeal for Woody Allen, her appeal may also be too private for the rest of us to apprehend. As a director Allen treats his costar too indulgently; he even allows her to sing an entire song, and her rendition is far from thrilling.

“Diane Keaton's gaucherie keeps Annie Hall from being an incandescent romantic comedy; but at least she keeps us laughing. The exhilarating thing about Woody Allen's movies is that he has no sacred cows. His satire is gleefully evenhanded; virtually no one comes out unscathed. He certainly doesn't spare himself in dissecting the failure of Alvy's relationship with Annie…. At least Allen is aware of his limitations, and he's trying to stretch himself. Annie Hall falls short of greatness, but it represents a promising step forward by our most gifted and inventive comic artist.”

Stephen Farber
New West, April 25, 1977
[Tho Keaton's was not Far's only prob. w/ film]

Stanley Kauffmann

“Keaton is more appealing than before and is very well costumed by Ruth Morley and Ralph Lauren. There's something fundamentally weak in her, uncommanding, as personality and certainly as actress, but Allen has--apparently--been working with her and has helped her develop an equivalent of his broken-arc, simultaneously triple-thinking delivery. She sings two songs, pleasantly enough but more well-coached than affecting….”

Stanley Kauffmann
New Republic, May 14, 1977
Before My Eyes, 144

Friday, April 08, 2005

John Simon

"....And then there is Diane Keaton's scandalous performance. Her work, if that is the word for it always consists chiefly of a dithering, blithering, neurotic coming apart at the seams — an acting style that is really a nervous breakdown in slow motion - but it has never before been allowed such latitude to deliquesce in. It is not so much an actress playing a role as a soul in torment crying out for urgent therapy — in bad taste to watch and an indecency to display. Miss Keaton is allowed to top her acting by singing two songs, which she does even less endurably: to compensate for her lack of vocal endowment, she goes in for even heavier mugging — it might as well be Central Park after dark."

--John Simon, National Review, April ?, 1977

(I recall Simon saying something about the last scene, where Annie's played by an actress whom Simon praises)

Dorothy Hall (Diane's mother)

"ANNIE HALL. I only saw Diane, her mannerisms, expressions, dress, hair, etc., the total her. The story took second place. When she sang, 'It Had to Be You' in a room full of talk and confusion, I fought back tears. But the song 'Seems Like Old Times' was the hard one to take; so tender. I was exploding inside. I tried to hold it all back. She looked beautiful. Gordon Willis did a very great job on the photography. She chose her own clothes and the gray T-shirt and baggy pants were 'down home' for sure. Annie Hall is a love story. It seemed real. Annie's camera in hand, her gum chewing, her lack of confidence, pure Diane. The story was tender, funny, and sad. It ended in separation, just like real life."

--Dorothy Hall, Diane's mother, quoted in
  Then Again, by Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton

"Filming Annie Hall was effortless....No one had any serious expectations. We were just having a good time moving through New York's landmark locations. As always, Woody consumed himself with worries about the script. Was it too much like an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show? I told him he was nuts. Relax....

"Woody's direction was the same. Loosen up the dialogue. Forget the marks. Move around like a real person. Don't make too much of the words, and wear what you want to wear. Wear what you want to wear? That was a first. So I did what Woody said... I stole what I wanted to wear from cool-looking women on the streets of New York.Annie's khaki pants, vest, and tie came from them. I stole the hat from Aurore Clement ... who showed up on the set of The Godfather II one day... Aurore had style, but so did all the street-chic women livening up SoHo in the mid-seventies. They were the real costume designers of Annie Hall.

"Well, that's not entirely true. Woody was. Every idea, every choice, every decision, came from the mind of Woody Allen....

 "I hadn't seen the movie. When I won the New York Film Critics Circle Award, I figured I'd better get myself to a movie theater before I ave my acceptance speech. It was 1978.... Like Mom, I was so consumed by the 'me' of it all that I couldn't pay attention to the story. I kept thinking, What's all the fuss about? Predictably, I hated my face, the sound of my voice, and my awful 'mannerisms.' On the positive side, I knew I was lucky. And I was grateful...."

"Most people assumed Annie Hall was the story of our relationship. My last name is Hall. Woody and I did share a significant romance, according to me, anyway. I did want to be a singer. I was insecure, and I did grope for words....

"I knew winning [the Academy Award] had noting to do with being the 'best' actress. I knew I didn't deserve it. And I knew I'd won an Academy Award for playing an affable version of myself. I got it...."

--Diane Keaton, Then Again, p. 125-128, 139
  (New York: 2011)

Woody Allen

"Diane is equal to the greatest screen comediennes we've ever had. I think she's top of the line. The two best female comedians would be Diane Keaton and Judy Holliday."

-- Woody Allen interviewed by Stig Bjorkman, 
   Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation 
   Stig Bjorkman (1993) 

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Woody Allen on Manhattan Murder Mystery

SB:  In the new film there's a big part for Diane Keaton again. How was the experience of working with her again?

WA:  Diane is equal to the greatest screen comediennes we've ever had. I think she's top of the line. The two best female comedians would be Diane Keaton and Judy Holliday. It's always fun to work with Diane. She's a good friend of mine, and she brings out the best in everybody. She has the kind of personality that lights up the whole project. She's such a positive personality.

SB:  Do you think that her part in Manhattan Murder Mystery gave her more opportunities to show her talents as a comedian than her parts in your previous films?

WA:  No, because originally I wrote the part for Mia, and I had written it more to what Mia likes to do. Mia likes to do funny things, but she's not as broad a comedian as Diane is. So Diane made this part funnier than I wrote it.

SB:  But you didn't change the part so it would suit her and her personality more?

WA:  No, I couldn't do that. In a regular script I would have done that upon hiring Diane Keaton. But I couldn't because it's a murder mystery, and it's very tightly plotted, so it's very hard to make big changes.

-- Woody Allen interviewed by Stig Bjorkman, 
   Woody Allen on Woody Allen: In Conversation 
   Stig Bjorkman (1993)