EX­PE­RI­ENCE

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - DANIEL COBBS

Singers lit­er­ally dom­i­nate as they squeeze the Halls into one-third of the screen. The lower-mid­dle-class Singer fam­ily home is warm, full of men­sh­likeit, af­fec­tion­ate, loving, ex­u­ber­ant, an­i­mated, ver­bose, and in­del­i­cate.

Or­di­nary con­ver­sa­tions are con­ducted in loud voices, body lan­guage lacks re­serve. Ev­ery­one is talk­ing at once and they con­tin­u­ally in­ter­rupt each other. They ar­gue heat­edly, usu­ally with food in their mouths. His mother doesn’t even sit down!

In con­trast, the all-Amer­i­can Halls are tight-lipped, slightly ine­bri­ated, se­date and po­lite. While the Halls speak of swap-meets and boat­ing, the Singers dis­cuss fail­ure and dis­ease.

Alvy’s awk­ward, neb­bish Jewish­ness is re­in­forced when he and An­nie pre­pare a lob­ster din­ner at a beach house in the Hamp­tons. The crus­taceans crawl on the kitchen floor as, fear­ful, Alvy at­tempts to avoid them. “Maybe we should just call the po­lice. Dial 911. It’s the lob­ster squad,” he pleads.

When he re­alises that one big lob­ster has crawled be­hind the re­frig­er­a­tor, he’s scared. “It’ll turn up in our bed at night. Talk to him. You speak shell­fish… An­nie, there’s a big lob­ster be­hind the re­frig­er­a­tor. I can’t get it out… Maybe if I put a lit­tle dish of but­ter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side?… We should have got­ten steaks, ’cause they don’t have legs. They don’t run around.”

In a re­ver­sal of the Easter din­ner and lob­ster de­ba­cle, Alvy takes An­nie to a Jewish del­i­catessen. With no idea of how to or­der “prop­erly” in such an es­tab­lish­ment, she re­quests pas­trami on white bread “with may­on­naise, toma­toes, and let­tuce.”

The joke works on two lev­els. By ask­ing to have it with may­on­naise on white bread An­nie has vi­o­lated the New York Jewish min­hag, which pre­scribes that pas­trami must be eaten on rye bread with mus­tard. As comic Mil­ton Berle quipped: “Any­time a per­son goes to a del­i­catessen and orders a pas­trami on white bread, some­where a Jew dies.” Alvy vis­i­bly winces as she orders, and An­nie’s sand­wich sym­bol­ises the cul­tural rift be­tween them, hint­ing at the prob­lems that their re­la­tion­ship will face in at­tempt­ing to merge “oil and wa­ter”.

Jewish com­edy on film would not be the same with­out An­nie Hall. Any num­ber of films which fea­ture gen­tile-Jewish ro­mances from Nora Ephron’s When Harry Met Sally to Meet the Par­ents, or any other Ben Stiller film for that mat­ter, to Knocked Up, draw upon An­nie Hall.

It set up the con­ven­tions to be end­lessly copied over the years. Its clas­sic scenes have en­tered the pop cul­tural lex­i­con. Lob­sters, “dy­na­mite ham” and, above all, how Allen plays with stereo­types of Jews and goys. Call the po­lice! Dial 911! It’s the lob­ster squad!

Nathan Abrams is Pro­fes­sor of Film Stud­ies at Ban­gor Univer­sity

HAVE YOU tried in­ter­net dat­ing,” my friends ask, smug in their own, loving re­la­tion­ships. If noth­ing else, my dat­ing life pro­vides ex­cel­lent din­ner-party fod­der. Of course I have trawled the web for my per­fect part­ner. But that was then, way be­fore the on­set of dat­ing cynicism and ac­cep­tance that this might be me now for­ever: mid­dleaged, sin­gle, watch­ing Satur­day evening TV and eat­ing take­away for one.

Any­way, it was on one such night, about a year ago, reeling from yet an­other messy and failed af­fair, I stum­bled upon a re-run of First Dates, the hugely suc­cess­ful fly-on­the-wall Chan­nel 4 pro­gramme. It’s dat­ing voyeurism for a TV au­di­ence. As the pro­gramme’s in­tro­duc­tion ex­plains: “Two strangers meet in a Lon­don restau­rant, metic­u­lously matched, based on their likes and dis­likes, the rest is down to them and Cu­pid’s ar­row.”

I weighed up the pros and cons. Worst case sce­nario: I’m still sin­gle. Best case: a Hol­ly­wood happy ever after.

So I ap­plied on­line, as you do, when half-a-bot­tle of red wine tells you to. But never, ever did I think they’d choose me.

“It’ll prob­a­bly never hap­pen,” I told my daugh­ters, try­ing to soften the thought of the world eaves­drop­ping on their old man in full dat­ing mode. As none of us truly be­lieved this First Dates malarkey would come to fruition it never re­ally got men­tioned again.

That’s why, when I did even­tu­ally go on my TV date, I never said a word to them, or my mum, sis­ters and brother. Even my best friend of forty years, Michael, whom I speak to ev­ery day, was obliv­i­ous. If it goes well and I get a sec­ond date, then I’ll say some­thing, I thought. And if it goes the other way…

What was I think­ing? There was still enough fuel in the ego tank to as­sume fail­ure wasn’t an op­tion and so I fo­cused on what I was go­ing to wear for my tele­vi­sion de­but. Jeans, jacket and white shirt. Good combo. Smart, yet casual. On sec­ond thoughts, per­haps the pink shirt…

Sur­real, is the only way I can de­scribe walk­ing into the First Dates restau­rant. If you’ve

Danny the dater ever watched the pro­gramme, then you’ll know that when it’s not be­ing used for film­ing, it’s a trendy, bare-bricked Lon­don eatery, just op­po­site St Pauls. I’ve been there many times be­fore, not phys­i­cally, but via my tele­vi­sion, so it felt very fa­mil­iar as soon as I stepped over the thresh­old.

Fred, the French maître d’ and Cu­pid’s love as­sis­tant, was there to greet me. “‘Ello, Danny, your date iz al­ready here,” and beck­oned me to fol­low him to the bar area where, in­deed, my date, Nicki, was wait­ing. If first im­pres­sions were any­thing to go by, then in the words of a 1970s Carry On movie: ding dong. Things were look­ing good.

A drink at the bar, some small talk to break the ice — isn’t this odd? Where do you live? How many chil­dren do you have? It was all go­ing swim­mingly. She even laughed at my corny jokes. Even though there are dozens of cam­eras se­creted around the restau­rant, after a while they tend to go un­no­ticed and soon it started to feel like, well, um, a proper date in a proper restau­rant.

Just be­fore we were shown to our ta­ble my pos­si­ble fu­ture life part­ner men­tioned air space over Brighton. Odd type of con­ver­sa­tion, I’ll grant you, but never be­ing one to let a con­ver­sa­tion dry-up, I went along with it. “Are you in avi­a­tion,” said I, know­ing this was not the best chat-up line I’ve ever de­liv­ered. She was, in­deed. No, she wasn’t an air host­ess as I wrongly pre­sumed. She flew he­li­copters for a hobby and had a ticket on the Vir­gin Galac­tica, Richard Bran­son’s tourist space ship.

I’d shot my­self in the foot with the trol­ley dolly faux pas and noth­ing could res­cue me. Three hours later, hav­ing picked up the tab for us both, it was time for the killer ques­tion. Do you want to see each other again? Hav­ing boldly laid my cards on the ta­ble by re­ply­ing “yes,” first, I then waited for Nicki’s re­sponse. There was a pause, and in that mo­ment’s hes­i­ta­tion I knew it was game over for me.

The trip back home seemed un­nat­u­rally long and tinged with a cer­tain amount of dis­ap­point­ment. Then again, did I re­ally ex­pect this to be The One? If I’m be­ing to­tally hon­est with my­self, yes, I sort of hoped it would be. Be­ing red­carded in pri­vate is one thing, hav­ing it done on na­tional TV is some­thing else. Guess I’ll be renewing my JDate mem­ber­ship, then. I said yes, I’d like to have an­other date with her

‘First Dates’ is on Chan­nel 4 on Tues­days at 10pm

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