Alvy: “Boy, if life were only like this . . .”
Alvy turns to the camera and makes this remark after he has gleefully pulled media critic Marshall McLuhan onscreen to tell off the obnoxious loudmouth standing behind him in the ticket line for the movie The Sorrow and the Pity. McLuhan tells the man he knows nothing of McLuhan’s work and “how you ever got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing.” This clearly fanciful exchange provides a visual demonstration of the transformative nature of art—one of Annie Hall’s major themes. Alvy is delighted at his control over the narrative, as the quotation indicates. However, the line also signals Alvy’s awareness that, despite his control over his memory and the film’s storyline, he is helpless to control reality. Within the film, he can time-travel back to age nine and add interpretive subtitles, but in real life there are no such benefits. Alvy’s comment indicates his preference of art over life—a preference that filmmaker Allen may hold himself.
Alvy frequently employs fantastical techniques to riff on reality and transform it into his ideal version of what happened between him and Annie. This comment articulates, with humor, the regret that Alvy may feel about some of the choices he has made throughout his life. It also implies that Alvy is more comfortable within the territory of art than he is in reality. Other scenes reinforce this idea: Alvy is hesitant to try new things—drugs, trips, visits to a famous music producer’s hotel room—in most areas of his life, but he has no qualms about inserting an animated or double-exposed film into the narrative. Later in the film, while Alvy directs a rehearsal of a play that revises the fate of his relationship with Annie, he reiterates this idea of art being preferable to real life when he says, “You’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life.”