The cinephile's dilemma (i.e., the "watcher" versus the "doer"), with a nifty central gag derived from the beginning of Breathless and revisited in True Romance. The final few minutes of Casablanca fill the screen, the camera pulls back to reveal Woody Allen enraptured by the spectacle; such beauty is "strictly the movies," he sighs, stepping into the world outside the theater where he's a timorous critic freshly dumped by his wife (Susan Anspach). His apartment is strewn with aspirin bottles and uncooked TV dinners ("I suck 'em dry") and Bogart memorabilia, getting dressed for a date means waging a war against his medicine cabinet and blowdryer. Bogey himself (Jerry Lacy) offers spectral advice, though Tinseltown prose dies in the nebbish's mouth -- "I love the rain. It washes memories off the sidewalk of life," he intones to Jennifer Salt, who then asks where the bathroom is. The other dates go just as disastrously (Joy Bang is carried off by shaggy bikers, even Viva the nympho is offended when Allen makes a pass at her) until Allen realizes that his best friend's wife (Diane Keaton) is his Ingrid, with Tony Roberts as the triangle's workaholic Paul Henreid. A kind of brisk relaxation between Bananas and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, with Allen's extended nightclub monologue benefiting from the outsider's contemplation of Herbert Ross' reticent mise en scène. The Purple Rose of Cairo and Melinda and Melinda, among many others, elaborate on various scenes, Annie Hall profits the most from Allen's stay in San Francisco, which is mellower than New York yet still receives the neurotic's stamp of approval as a place where analysts ditch their patients during the summer. A schlemiel can achieve Bogartian hard-boiled grace through love, and if he can't, well, there's always a joke for the cute nihilist gazing at the exhibition's Pollock: "What are you doing Saturday night?" "Committing suicide." "About Friday night?"
--- Fernando F. Croce