Seems Like Old Times

Staging, Control, and (Mis)memory in Annie Hall

  • Max Tohline Independent Scholar
Keywords: Film Studies, Film Theory, Popular Culture, Autobiographical Elements in Film, Camera Angles, Comedy, Composition, Director's Control, Editing, Essay Film, Flashback, Framing, Gaze in Film, Jokes and Jokers in Film, Masculinity, Memory, Narcissism, Psychology, Reflexivity, Shot-Reverse Shot, Hollywood Studio System, Hollywood Renaissance, American Independent Cinema, Auteur, Independent Cinema, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Mise-en-scène, film theory, narratology, flashback, direct address


The refrain that viewers can (or should) ‘separate the art from the artist’ relies on the assumption that a problematic artist does not leave traces of their transgressions in their work. But the techniques of manipulation that a potential criminal might leverage to gain control over others significantly overlap filmmaking techniques designed to shape audience perception, such as framing and editing. This essay proposes to “de-edit” or “re-spatialize” some moments from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) to bring attention to the modes of gaze, address, and manipulation exerted by the director throughout the film. This method resituates the film from its popular image as the scattered chronicle of an underdog neurotic to a more critical portrait of a narcissist deploying the reflective apparatuses of memory and cinema for a project of distortion and, ultimately, self-deception.