'Annie Hall' vs. 'Midnight in Paris': Deconstructing Allen's Ideological Descent

It’s unfair to hold Woody Allen to the standard he set 35 years ago with “Annie Hall.”

Allen’s romantic comedy, which beat out “Star Wars” for the Best Picture Oscar in 1977, remains an unabashed delight in its newly minted Blu-ray format. You’ll fall in love with Miss La-dee-dah herself, Diane Keaton, and marvel how Allen could smuggle in so many laughs without sacrificing the film’s bittersweet core.

Woody Allen Annie Hall

It’s that rare comedy that hasn’t aged a minute, even if we still scratch our heads over why a stunner like Annie would fall so hard for a neurotic comedian.

What’s more remarkable about re-watching the film is seeing how Allen the artist handled the political divide then … and now.

In “Annie Hall,” Allen’s Alvy Singer is a liberal stand-up comic who is seen at one point performing for an Adlai Stevenson fundraiser. It’s clear from that sequence, and from other stream-of-conscious bits, that he’s a man of the Left. Yet Alvy never rubs us the wrong way no matter how he kevetches about his inability to be truthful to his girlfriends or his unabiding hate for the Left Coast.

Contrast that demeanor to two of Allen’s more recent films, “Whatever Works” and “Midnight in Paris.”

In “Whatever Works,” Allen paints people of faith as being troglodytes who finally see the light – by embracing their inner beatnik. The film “invites us to sneer at benighted Southerners, idiot Christians, stupid kids and their hard rock music – anything, in short, that wouldn’t pass muster among the Big Apple sophisticates of whom the director is a longtime laureate,” says Kurt Loder in his excellent new film anthology “The Good, the Bad and the Godawful: 21st Century Movie Reviews.”

“Midnight in Paris” is even more alienating to anyone who doesn’t embrace the Left. Rachel McAdams plays the villain of the piece, a soulless American trying to keep her beau (Owen Wilson) from pursuing his passions rather than easy paychecks. But she’s a doll compared to her parents, a Tea Party couple depicted as utter boors. The movement itself is dubbed “crypto-fascists” by Wilson’s character.

What a shame that an older, not-so-wiser Allen feels the need to add divisive elements into his new stories. Good thing we have films like “Annie Hall” on Blu-ray to chase away those negative vibes.

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