Randomly flicking between stations last night I came across Annie Hall, just started. I’ve seen it a zillion times before and thought I’ll just watch for a little before switching to something else. Of course I didn’t. I got hooked early, seduced by the easy familiarity of a movie I know so well, and which I grew up with.
I reckon I know half the lines in Annie Hall. There’re some crackers. I’ve used a lot of the lines myself on a regular basis, though the time has come when most people now don’t recognise the source.
As I was watching I realised that it had to be one of my favourite films. It’s so bloody clever, not just the dialogue, but the way it was made too. And it’s familiar too, a familiarity that comes from having watched it so often, but capped off by the familiarity of having lived a life in which similar episodes were not only possible, but almost common. It’s a shared experience of living, which is probably another reason I love it so much – it feels in some convoluted way as if half of it could be my life, albeit I’m not a pasty Jewish New Yorker.
It’s one of those shows that become important in your life, and when I think about it there are a dozen other programs that hold a similar place in my life.
When I think of movies I’d add in Dangerous Liaisons and Age of Innocence (and likewise the books those movies are based on). Dream Story (Schnitzler), A Hero of Our Times (Lermontov), A Balcony In The Forest (Gracq) had a similar impact. Then there are TV shows like Seinfeld, which I still reference with like-minded friends (I’m actually giving Donna a t-shirt for her birthday tonight with the legend ‘Spongeworthy’ printed across the front of it). Then there are other shows like Mad Men and Californication which had a connection to me unlike other favourite shows, because I could share something with them.
I called up my mate from Sydney afterwards last night. Growing up we would go and watch Woody Allen movies together, Love and Death at North Sydney, Manhattan at Double Bay (I think), and for years after his movies would crop up in our conversation. It was another reason we were friends, a shared appreciation.
Last night we riffed on it for ten minutes or so, in the same groove. He made a random reference to the second lobster scene in the movie and the leggy woman non compos at Woody’s cracks, and both of us knew exactly what that was like.
These are some of the many things that knit together a life story, and I reckon you can get a pretty good idea of a person by the books, the music, the movies and TV they like. I don’t know why we don’t do more of that because it goes beyond taste, and towards a perspective.