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- French Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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- Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
- German Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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- Portuguese Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono
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Annie Hall (Blu-ray)
MGM/UA / 1977 / 93 Minutes / Rated R
Street Date: January 24, 2012
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Reviewed by Daniel Hirshleifer
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Please welcome Daniel Hirshleifer to High-Def Digest! Daniel is a Los Angeles native who has been reviewing films for over a decade, and has worked in theatrical exhibition for half that span. He's run 35mm, digital, and 70mm IMAX films for audiences, and has reviewed DVD, HD DVD, Blu-ray, and theatrical releases. Some of his favorite films include '2001: A Space Odyssey,' 'Blue Velvet,' 'Blade Runner,' and 'Gremlins 2: The New Batch.' He's currently pursuing a degree in primatology, despite the fact that most primates have very ugly behinds.
"I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member." That's the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
'Annie Hall' hasn’t been "just a film" in a long time. In the years since it won the Academy Award for Best Picture, Woody Allen's breakout comedy has moved into the realm of legend. People wh have never seen it know what it is. Avid haters of romantic comedies make an exception for this one. Millions of 'Star Wars' fans cry out in anger when they realize it was little 'Annie Hall' that took Best Picture over their beloved space opera. But what is it about this film that inspires such devotion 35 years after its release?
In case you somehow don't know, 'Annie Hall' tells the story of the titular Annie (Diane Keaton) and her relationship with Alvy Singer (writer/director Woody Allen). The two are an unlikely pair, with Annie's oddball fashion sense and small town sensibilities contrasting with Alvy's worldly cynicism and biting humor. But the synopsis doesn’t do the film justice. This isn't a classic because it’s a love story (although Allen's handling of relationship politics frequently rings true), but because of how the story is told.
The film opens with Allen addressing the camera directly. He delivers a monologue that begins with jokes, but quickly becomes personal, feeling more like a confession than a routine. This sets the tone for the entire film. Nothing is out of bounds. Breaking the fourth wall, time jumps, animated sequences, Marshall McLuhan hiding behind movie standees. It's all in there, and it all works. These anachronisms still feel fresh today, as most filmmakers don't have the stones to try such daring stylistic touches, or don't have the skill to pull them off as artfully and hilariously as Allen does.
The structure is also quite unconventional. Allen begins the film by telling the audience that Alvy and Annie have broken up, he then jumps to a point in the middle of their relationship, and uses that to springboard back through two ex-wives, to Annie and Alvy's courtship and beyond. It’s complex and messy, just like real relationships.
The script is also a classic, with Allen delivering zingers so quickly that you're likely to miss half of them because you're still laughing at the previous one. Many scenes from the film are so good that they play out like a highlight reel for Woody Allen's entire career. The lobster sequence, Annie's soul leaving her body during sex, the cocaine mistake, and of course Christopher Walken's brief but unforgettable cameo. It’s one of those comedies that's so good, you’ll be astonished they could pack all the jokes into one picture.
To this day, most romantic comedies take something from 'Annie Hall,' but without an ounce of the originality and vision that Allen had in 1977. The way he so skillfully wove together realistic characterizations with fantastical occurrences is no less masterful today, and no less effective on an audience. While Woody Allen made funnier films ('Love and Death' and 'Sleeper' spring to mind), and made deeper, more philosophical films ('Manhattan' and 'Crimes and Misdemeanors'), 'Annie Hall' remains the film that Allen will be remembered for.
MGM Home Video presents 'Annie Hall' in a 1.85:1, AVC transfer encoded at an average of 38 MBPS.
The film was shot in the mid 70s, a time when film stocks were especially grainy. Luckily, it looks like no noise reduction was applied to this transfer, which retains the look one would expect of a lower budget film in the late 70s. Even better, MGM sourced the transfer from a clean print. Aside from a few fleeting instances of speckling, the print is dirt free.
Due to the original look of the film, 'Annie Hall' is never going to look stellar in high definition, but by putting the film with a high bitrate on a 50 GB disc, the transfer has plenty of room to breathe and probably looks as good as a freshly minted print did in 1977. Thank goodness MGM realized that excessive meddling would only hurt the transfer, not help it.
MGM offers up a mono DTS-HD Master Audio mix in English, and Dolby Digital mono Spanish, French, Italian, German, Catalan, and Portuguese mixes.
The soundtrack is clear and crisp, without any distortion, muffling, or drop outs. And as the original mix was in mono, you’re not missing out on anything. Besides, 'Annie Hall' isn’t the kind of film that would have benefited from a 5.1 mix anyway, and trying to make one by adding in rear effects would have spoiled things.
Woody Allen doesn’t believe in DVD extras, feeling that films should speak for themselves. As such, 'Annie Hall' only has one special feature, the original theatrical trailer. Although it is in 1080p, it doesn’t look as clean as the main film.
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'Annie Hall' is considered a classic, and with good reason. Woody Allen managed to create and destroy an entire genre in one film, and it remains his most memorable achievement. This Blu-ray disc faithfully recreates the experience of seeing the film in 1977, with a clean and accurate transfer and lossless mono mix. While there's nothing to write home about in terms of extras, that's Woody's prerogative, and it shouldn't stop you from buying this excellent disc. Recommended.
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