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26/10/2010 / Lynn Rabbitts

Chapter 4: An Island Unto Himself

The movie Annie Hall could be used to illustrated any situation from Schirato and Yell’s Communication and Culture. But it works best, perhaps, within framing context as described in chapter four.

The narrative of the movie is difficult, almost aloof. Yet the rules are explained at the outset of the movie. Alvy Singer is not attempting to re-tell the story of his relationship with Annie, he is attempting to put in a frame what went wrong with all of the relationships in his life. This is not done in a straight narrative, but allows the audience to follow Alvy along as he dissects romantic entanglements to figure out what exactly went wrong.

The movie requires a large degree of specific intertextuality in order to understand the jokes. This is one of the better exchanges within the movie:

Man: “She’s living in Los Angeles with Tony Lacey.”

Alvy: “Oh, yeah? Well, if she is, then the hell with her! If she likes that lifestyle, let her live there! He’s a jerk, for one thing.”

Man: “He graduated Harvard.”

Alvy: “Yeah, He may– Listen, Harvard makes mistakes, you know: Kissinger taught there”

Woman on the Street: “Don’t tell me your jealous?”

Alvy: “Yeah, jealous. A little bit, like Medea.”

The entire joke is predicated on the viewers past knowledge of 1) Kissinger and 2) a minor character from Homer’s Odyssey (CC pg 53). No doubt most of us only laugh about it so we can feel better than those that don’t get the joke.

The rules of genre are also followed, though the rules of discourse are broken in the following scene. In it, we are given the first moment Alvy and Annie hung out. Both need to follow the social mores put into practice by people attempting to figure out a relationship, but it breaks by allowing the audience to read the subtitles of what they actually mean.

Both of them are communicating with a social purpose and occasion (CC pg 56), but the subtitles allow the viewer insight to the meaning of the points they are attempting to convey.

The movie concludes with another joke or parable to Michael Foucalt’s need to create a “power structure, classify and normalize the social world.” (CC pg 59). It contextualizes all that Alvy has learned from the narrative of the journey. This nicely ties in with what is learned from Pierre Bourdieu’s habitus. Even though Alvy has found what has made relationships continually miserable for him, he isn’t about to change, and will, no doubt, continue down the same path in other relationships.

As he says, “We all need the eggs.”


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