In Which Annie Hall Is Still The Best Romantic Comedy Ever Made

Saudade And Thanks For All The Lobsters

by Molly Lambert

Some of the best relationships end in failure. Just ask Julia Allison. Dwelling on this can be depressing and trying to go over your record for clues you can use in the future can be uselessly solipsistic and mystifying. There are whole blogs dedicated to the subject, and it informs lad-lit like High Fidelity and Proust.

The most famous perpetrator is Romeo and Juliet, which was probably based on even older doomed love sagas. For whatever reason we romanticize dead rock stars and other Byronic anti-heroes, we think prematurely aborted love is extra-tragic. That’s why Nicholas Sparks can peddle it to so many suckers.

There was a Sex and The City episode which used the cringe-inducing phrase “la doleur exquise,” literally exquisite sadness. This sentiment is the dramatic engine behind romance novels, The Notebook, Atonement, Love In The Time Of Cholera, Titanic and all the other stories hinging on longing and unrequited love.

I watched the (perfect) Mad Men pilot again. There’s an especially cynical scene where Don Draper is having drinks with Rachel Mencken for the first time and tells her “What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons.”

Now I’m not as darksided as all that. I’m an optimist and my parents and grandparents have all stayed married. And I’m from California, not New York.

Dust Can’t Kill Me – Woody Guthrie: mp3

Annie Hall is more tragic than Romeo and Juliet because it’s about a relationship where a lot of things go right, it ends out of inevitability, and life just goes on. It’s essentially true to life and that’s why it’s still strikes such a chord with people. Modern relationships are like sharks, and every week is shark week.

I mean it’s also impeccably well-made, shambling but without any seams showing. Things just sort of amble along hilariously, you don’t really want it to end, and then all of a sudden Diane Keaton is singing “Seems Like Old Times” over the heartbreaking final montage. It’s the ultimate seventies downer ending and it never works when other people try to rip it off.

“In real life, Keaton believes in God. But she also believes that the radio works because there are tiny people inside it.” – Woody

Seems Like Old Times – Diane Keaton: mp3

DK also inspired Warren Beatty to make another of my favorite films, Reds, the best epic romance ever with an equally effective montage at the end. Annie Hall and Louise Bryant are great female characters whose three-dimensionality remains unfortunately novel in film.

That said, three and a third out out of the five noms for best original screenplay this year are women. GIRL POWER!

I read this really offensive profile of Diane a few years ago where the (female) interviewer was basically like “If you can’t find a husband, what hope is there for the rest of us?” Diane seemed fine. It was all about the insecurities of the writer. Still, nobody gives men a hard time about being loners or bachelors. I mean, she’s a brilliant actress who was in the fucking Godfather movies, why don’t you ask her about that?

See my Jack Nicholson piece for cross-reference. Personal lives don’t affect the strength of a canon of work. If I took into account the sordid disgusting sexual careers of Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, Charlie Chaplin and other misogyniuses (basically everyone in film) I’d never be able to enjoy their work. And I do, so there’s that hypocrisy. Kinda like how feminists all love gangster rap. Speaking of which, pray for Nate Dogg.

“It’s kind of true, you do disappear off the planet if you are a middle-aged woman, but that has some advantages as well. Because too much of my life was spent waiting to be seen. Hoping to be seen, hoping to be picked. Once you realize that you aren’t looked at that way any more, other things start to happen and you have to depend on other things to get by.” – DK

Complete script for Annie Hall online.

Tess and I watched Looking For Mr. Goodbar and then went out to buy rape whistles together.

Diane as Amelia Earheart is such a good call.

Everyone Nose – N.E.R.D.: mp3

Nicole Holofcener, I am begging you. Write a vehicle for Diane Keaton.

How much would I love to see her as a rich multi-layered female character in a role crafted for her particular strengths? How timely it would be in this potential age of Hillary to see more actresses get to play complicated and conflicted middle-aged women. Also she’s still a total babe!

Most of the good roles are in TV these days. I’d love to see Diane do a stint on Big Love as a prim Mormon with a dark secret.

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue – Bob Dylan: mp3

A lot of mumblecore movies try hard to give you that Annie Hall feeling. Judd Apatow sometimes does too.

Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is another great movie about romantic saudade. Science-Fiction is an awesome lens through which to deal with nostalgia and Charlie Kaufman’s Phillp K. Dick inspired script is genius. I remember the first time I saw it I thought the ending was uplifting and the second time it made me so depressed. I liked the movie so much I wrote a short story ripping it off. Maybe I will run it here sometime.

Charlie Kaufman’s new movie Synecdoche is a play on Schenectady, New York. The script for Annie Hall was originally titled Anhedonia, which is the inability to experience pleasure.

Molly Lambert is the senior editor of This Recording.


An out of print short story by J.D. Salinger.

Gosling Schmosling and Robert Creeley

The place of sex scenes in novels.

12 thoughts on “In Which Annie Hall Is Still The Best Romantic Comedy Ever Made

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