Unusual Editing Style Directed by Woody Allen

Topics: Film Analysis

Director Woody Allen employs a unique editing style in his film Annie Hall, one that had not really been seen up until this point in film. The cuts in this film are timed out in a way so that the humor from the situation has a chance to hit the audience with full force. He often accomplishes this with a set up in the first shot then immediately cutting to the result following the setup shot. In most classical films such an event would be edited to show the build up to the event after the setup.

In Annie Hall there is no shot in between the setup and the result and the audience gets jolted by the sudden change and highlights the comedy.

Another way that comedy is established through the editing is how the inner thoughts of certain people are conveyed. He pulls the audience out of reality and directly enters the mind of certain characters, but he does it in a very simple and unobtrusive way.

However, whenever he does it there is no confusion as to what is going on, his method is simple and effective. The final method Allen uses to heighten the comedy of a situation and the characters involved is by holding on a shot for the correct amount of time depending on what’s going on within it. Some shots go on for a very long time while others may last just a few seconds. This timing is all dictated by how much time the audience needs to get the joke and the setup before he can cut to the punch line or result.

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Woody Allen heightens the comedy in his film Annie Hall by cutting directly from the setup to the result, taking the audience out of reality with simple editing tricks, and holding on shots just long enough for the audience to get a sense of the joke being told on screen.

There are plenty of examples of cutting directly from the setup to the result in Annie Hall. One of the funniest and most subtle examples of this occurs when Alvy first encounters Annie’s brother Duane. At first it seems like just a random encounter with an odd member of Annie’s family. The next shot is of Annie’s parents talking about who should drive Alvy and Annie home. At this moment the audience catches on to the situation but wouldn’t normally start laughing just yet. Instead of cutting to the news being broke to Alvy or them getting into the car it cuts right to them inside the car with Duane.

This works perfectly for comedic effect since the camera can simply reveal the expressions of each person in the car and the audience automatically knows everything there is to be known. Another one of the more ironic scenes in the film plays on the degradation of relationships between people when they believe they are in love. The setup shot involves Alvy and Annie at the waterfront with them asking if they love each other. Annie is a bit more truthful than Alvy and answers that she is unsure while Alvy on the other hand doesn’t just say he loves her but tries to say that love is not a strong enough word to describe how he feels about Annie.

The romantic scene plays out with a final kiss then abruptly cuts to a shot of Annie packing up to move in with Alvy and Alvy desperately trying to get her to reconsider. This is the punch line of Alvy not being entirely truthful with Annie about his feelings. Instead of allowing the audience to watch the events leading up to Annie deciding to move in with Alvy the film cuts right to her decisions and Alvy’s desperate reaction. It’s this snappy editing that serves to make a funny scene outright hilarious to the audience. As the audience watches Annie and Alvy’s relationship deteriorate into its final death throes the snappy editing technique is utilized once more.

Following Annie’s successful performance singing at a club along with her chance at fame when the record dealer approached her Alvy got her to decline to spend time with him. Alvy insinuates that he and Annie have important things to do together but the audience can suspect that’s a lie. Once again the film cuts abruptly to the opening of another Nazi movie Alvy is making Annie see. Only the opening of the film is shown and then the film cuts again to Alvy and Annie at their respective therapy sessions. In this short amount of time the audience sees that event at the club precipitates the end of their relationship. Through clever editing Allen shows the audience everything they need to know and makes it all quite comedic at the same time.

The audience is regularly removed from reality throughout the film to firmly place the audience in the role of observer just like Alvy does throughout the film. Placing the audience in Alvy’s viewpoint along with the viewpoints of other characters makes certain scenarios even more comedic. One example of the audience not following Alvy’s perspective but another’s occurs when he is eating dinner with Annie’s family. Each character has their own space in each shot and the film cuts between each of them to show their reactions and emotions. As the camera cuts back and forth between Alvy and Annie’s grandmother we are momentarily taken out of reality when we enter the grandmother’s perspective. One time when the camera cuts back to Alvy he is wearing a stereotypical Jewish costume.

Although Alvy looked normal just a few seconds before the audience realizes its not reality since we were on the grandmother right before and its already been established that she doesn’t like Jewish people. We are also taken out of perspective to great effect when Alvy is recalling his childhood. It begins in his classroom when he talks about how he kissed a girl when he was only six years old and got in trouble. The girl he kissed starts off by talking about absurd things like Freudian psychology and then suddenly adult Alvy appears in the classroom. The film then cuts back and forth between adult Alvy arguing with his teacher while he sits at his desk. The editing style is used to slip adult Alvy into the classroom without the audience even knowing at first and cuts in a way to make him seem helpless like he is just a child again.

The final editing element that highlights the comedy in Annie Hall is the variable length of time certain shots are held for. The comedic pace of the film almost always dictates this time length, but sometimes the film holds on shots to get a point across about the current situation and the emotions of the characters. One of the first very long shots occurs when Alvy and his friend are walking down the street. The shot is held for a very long time as the audience watches them walk all the way down the street as Alvy goes on and on about people supposedly being anti-Semitic towards him. The camera could have just as easily cut back and forth between Alvy and his friend’s face during the conversation but that is not how it is done.

The reason the film stays on that shot of the street for so long is to get the audience to connect with Alvy’s friend’s annoyance with Alvy’s paranoia regarding all the people around him. Visually, the shot is not that interesting and this reflects in the conversation. It gets to the point where the audience just wants the shot to change no matter what, but it doesn’t until the conversation ends. Another example of a painfully long shot occurs when Annie is first performing at the nightclub and everything goes wrong during her performance. The shot itself actually doesn’t last too long but the situation surrounding it with all the background noise makes it seem like the shot is going on forever. By contrast, when Annie gives her second performance at a nightclub in the film the shot actually lasts much longer than the first performance. Allen plays on the situation at hand when he makes his decision on when to cut. Time simply doesn’t dictate the length of his shots but rather the dramatic situation going on at the time. Allen is also able to turn a long, uncomfortable shot into a funny one.

When Alvy and Annie are standing in line for the movie and the guy behind them won’t stop talking about his opinions the camera never cuts for this whole scene. The most the camera does is a pan when Alvy walks over into another cut away from reality where he finds Marshall McLuhan to prove the man wrong. Allen is playing off of a situation we have all been in at one time or another where we feel trapped in this very annoying situation and there seems to be no way out of it. He capitalizes on this feeling we get by keeping the camera firmly rooted in place on the same shot the whole time to trap the audience in Alvy’s situation, one we can all relate to. Like almost every other editing decision made in this film it was made to highlight the comedy of the situation to get the audience laughing even harder than they normally would.

Woody Allen heightens the comedy in his film Annie Hall by cutting directly from the setup to the result, taking the audience out of reality with simple editing tricks, and holding on shots just long enough for the audience to get a sense of the joke being told on screen. While most films would normally cut to continuity by reducing the amount of setup to a situation’s result, Allen just skips right from the setup right to the conclusion. He realizes that jokes are not necessarily funny when they take forever to get to where they’re going and mimics that idea in his editing technique. The funniest moment of this snappy editing was when Alvy and Annie are forced to ride in the car with Duane despite his suicidal thoughts.

The film is edited so that we do not see Alvy’s reaction to the situation until it is much too late for him to do anything about it and he is alongside Annie who is fine with the situation since she is not aware of the setup that occurred earlier. The audience is also taken out of reality quite frequently during the film but only for brief moments as a joke to make the audience laugh. Allen does this so subtly a lot of the time that the audience cannot see it coming but when it does happen there is no confusion as to what is going on. When he cuts back and forth from Alvy to Annie’s grandmother and then all of the sudden Alvy is wearing a stereotypical Jewish costume the audience already knows that we are in Annie’s grandmother’s mind and no further explanation is necessary.

Finally, Allen shows masterful control of when to hold on a shot and when is the appropriate time to cut to a different shot to emphasize the dramatic or comedic effect of the situation. Whenever Alvy is engaged in an uncomfortable situation like when he is stuck in the movie line, the camera holds in the same position to trap the audience with him so that we empathize with his plight and it makes it funnier to us since many of us have been there before. If Woody Allen had decided to edit this film like a traditional film a lot of the comedic elements would either have had greatly diminished effect or would not have been present at all. He worked to create a style of editing where the film moved with a quick, comedic rhythm that mimicked his own comedic style as opposed to cutting solely for the purposes of the story he was telling. The result of this clever use of editing was a very funny film that has had a profound impact on how comedy is portrayed on screen as well as on television.

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Unusual Editing Style Directed by Woody Allen. (2022, May 04). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/unusual-editing-style-directed-by-woody-allen/

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