Daily Dialogue — June 20, 2013

June 20th, 2013 by


Alvy and the Halls are eating Easter dinner. The sun is pouring through a big picture window, shining on a large,
elegantly laid out table. Alvy sits, at one end,- rubbing his nose and chewing, the Halls flanking him on either side: Mr. and Mrs. Hall, Grammy, and Annie’s brother, Duane.

MOM HALL: (Holding her wine glass) It’s a nice ham this year, Mom.

Grammy Hall takes a sip of her wine and nods.

ANNIE… (Smiling at Duane) Oh, yeah. Grammy always does such a good job.
DAD HALL: (Chewing) A great sauce.
ALVY: It is. (Smacking his lips) It’s dynamite ham.

Grammy Hall stares down the table at Alvy; a look of utter dislike. Alvy tries not to notice.
MOM HALL: (To Dad Hall, smoothing her hair) We went over to the swap meet. Annie, Gram and I. Got some nice picture frames.
ANNIE: We really had a good time.

Grammy continues to stare at Alvy; he is now dressed in the long black coat and hat of the Orthodox Jew, complete with mustache and heard.

MOM HALL: (Lighting a cigarette and turning to Alvy) Ann tells us that you’ve been seeing a psychiatrist for fifteen years.
ALVY: (Setting down his glass and coughing) Yes. I’m making excellent progress. Pretty soon when I lie down on his couch, I won’t have to wear the lobster bib.

Mom Hall reacts by sipping from her glass and frowning. Grammy continues to stare.

DAD HALL: Duane and I went out to the boat basin.
DUANE: We were caulkin’ holes all day.
DAD HALL: Yeah. (Laughing) Randolph Hunt was drunk, as usual.
MOM HALL: Oh, that Randolph Hunt. You remember Randy Hunt, Annie. He was in the choir with you.
ANNIE: Oh, yes, yes.

Alvy, leaning his elbow on the table, looks out toward the camera.

ALVY: (To the audience) I can’t believe this family. Annie’s mother. She’s really beautiful. And they’re talkin’ swap meets and boat basins, and the old lady at the end of the table… (Pointing to Grammy)… is a classic Jew hater. And, uh, they, they realty look American, you know, very healthy and… like they never get sick or anything. Nothing like my family. You know, the two are like oil and water.

The screen splits in half – on the right is Alvy’s family – his mother, father, aunt and uncle-busily eating at the crowded kitchen table. They eat quickly and interrupt one another loudly. On the left the Halls in their dining room. Both dialogues overlap, juxtaposed.

ALVY’S FATHER: Let ‘im drop dead! Who needs his business?!
ALVY’S MOTHER: His wife has diabetes!
ALVY’S FATHER: Di-diabetes? Is that any excuse? Diabetes?
ALVY’S UNCLE: The man is fifty years old and doesn’t have a substantial job.
ALVY’S AUNT: (Putting more meat on her husband’s plate) Is that a reason to steal from his father?
ALVY’S UNCLE: Whatta you talkin’ about? You don’t know what you’re talking about.
ALVY’S AUNT: Yes, I know what I’m talking about.
ALVY’S MOTHER: (Interrupting) George, defend him!
ALVY’S UNCLE: (Over Alvy’s father’s muttering) No Moskowitz, he had a coronary.
ALVY’S AUNT: You don’t say.
MOM HALL: Stupid Thelma Poindexter… to the Veterans Hospital.
DAD HALL: My God, he’s the new president of the El Regis. Let me tell you, the man is somethin’ else.
MOM HALL: That’s Jack’s wife. We used to make that outta raisins.
ANNIE: Oh, yes, that’s right. Did you see the new play?
MOM HALL: Oh, you remember her, Annie.
ANNIE: Yes, I do.

The two families start talking back and forth to one another. The screen is still split.

MOM HALL: How do you plan to spend the holidays, Mrs. Singer?
ALVY’S FATHER: Yeah, no food. You know, we have to atone for our sins.
MOM HALL: What sins? I don’t understand.
ALVY’S FATHER: Tell you the truth, neither do we.

Annie Hall (1977), written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week is dinner scene, suggested by Turambar. Today’s suggestion by Illimani.

Trivia: Woody Allen originally filmed a scene in which a traffic advisory sign “urges” Alvy to go to Annie in California. Editor Ralph Rosenblum wrote that Allen was so disgusted by the scene’s cuteness that he took the footage and threw it into the East River. The traffic-sign motif was later used in Steve Martin’s L.A. Story.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Perhaps nothing quite conveys the essence of a family more than how they handle meals and Woody Allen makes great use of that fact here in visualizing the stark contrast between Annie’s family and his.

3 thoughts on “Daily Dialogue — June 20, 2013

  1. Larry Barker says:

    Great scene – but I can never get over how badly he shot it.
    Some slightly better camera placement and he could have made the ‘talking across’ work much better.
    As it is, it’s just plain ugly.

    1. Scott says:

      Larry, I’ve never really thought much about Woody Allen’s movies in terms of their visual approach, probably because I tend to get caught up in the characters, dialogue and situations.

      Re this scene, I guess it never really bothered me because I was so enjoying the CONCEIT of the scene, parallel families conversing against and with each other.

      But you’re right, it probably could have been shot better.

      One visual thing I did notice about Allen’s movies was his tendency to do a scene where he locks the camera into one position, a long shot of an interior, then characters walk in and out of the shot, carrying on a conversation or an argument. I seem to recall a scene like that in Annie Hall, perhaps a few in Manhattan, maybe others.

      I always liked that in that it gave the scene a feel of real life, almost like a documentary.

      But I don’t think visuals are Allen’s strong suit. It’s the characters, the dialogue, the moments. For me, that’s what makes a Woody Allen movie.

    2. Illimani says:

      Larry, like Scott I never paid attention to the way he shot it, but you are right, I just realized that it brings on a quite different result. One thing that I like about the script is that this scene somewhat was supposed to show, first, how neurotic Alvy is (although a part of neurosis is justified) and, after that, how the two families are deeply different in their gestures but not that much in their ideas: both are into gossip, for example, what reinforces that Alvy is being neurotic. But the way Allen shot it gives more space to Alvy’s family and as viewers we buy his neurosis instead of identifying it.

Leave a Reply