The most astute and least indulgent of Woody Allen's many self-analyses, Annie Hall positions him - in the guise of comedian Alvy Singer - as charmingly out of time, a screwball protagonist in a post-screwball world. If screwball was about reframing censorship as a creative constriction, a way to explore the possibilities of deflecting consummation into conversation, then Annie Hall begs the question of what role such a comic mode might have in a sexually liberated world, in which any attempt at euphemism or circumspection is redundant. Most immediately, Allen replaces deflection with fusion, setting up a series of conversations that literally take place during consummation, most memorably an obsessive discussion of JFK conspiracy theories. More originally, Allen transforms the very language of a certain sexually liberated intelligentsia - that is, emergent academic theory - into an object of screwball. As a result, romantic screwball is largely replaced with intellectual screwball - an insane, idiotic concatenation of names and reference points that's fascinated with academic discourse even as it insists upon its alienation from, or superiority to it. At the same time, Woody exquisitely presents this combination of alienation and fascination as the result of being born between generations, in the mid-30s - the height of screwball - and so both too young and too old to find pleasure anywhere. It's this generational, rather than constitutional, distance from pleasure that makes Woody's psychoanalysis so unproductive; or, rather, clarifies that the main symptom of his neurosis is a commitment to the classical Freudian approach itself, in his attempt to understand and engage with a world that's become largely driven by 'therapy' and ego psychology. It also informs the circuitous, playful structure of the film, which lends a mournful, melancholy quality to the prototype of most of Woody's subsequent cinematic relationships - his adoption of a teacher role as defense against rock music, drug use, parties, Paul Simon or whatever else might alienate him from his typically younger mistress, a pedagogy that's ultimately thwarted by actual figures of academic authority, and finds its logical conclusion in his insistence on paying for Annie's therapy. This structure also transforms what could effectively have been an extended stand-up routine, a string of what have become some of his most iconic mantras and one-liners, into a vision of America's last great believer in the talking cure. In most of Woody's films, his self-deprecation is fairly disingenuous, the flipside of a cerebral virility that can seduce any woman, however beautiful or unavailable, but Annie Hall largely resists that, putting him in a position of poignant vulnerability that, for all its residual indulgence, remains compelling - a vision of Manhattan's patron saint lost in "a health food restaurant on Sunset Boulevard."