In Annie Hall we have the eponymous heroine, who is neurotic, trying to find some semblance of happiness. Pit her against another neurotic, a New York comedian Alvy Singer their combined neurosis must be a veritable mine and naturally enough with the success of Annie Hall a new genre of movies came in vogue of which When Harry Met Sally is one. This movie marks a turning point in the career of Woody Allen. Gone were the slapstick jokes, pratfalls and high-paced hilarity that had marked his earlier films (Bananas, Sleeper, and Love and Death). His films became mature.
Interestingly enough Woody Allen began this project as a whodunit mystery with possibly a love angle. Allen and co-screenwriter Marshall Brickman actually produced a script during which the role of Diane Keaton moved from secondary role to the central role. As always the case the original intent of murder mystery was dropped. ( see trivia section at the end)
The film is titled Annie Hall but the film is clearly built around Alvy Sanger. It traces the course of their relationship from their first meeting, and serves as an interesting historical document about love in the 70s.
Annie Hall’s story unfolds in retrospect with Alvy, as the narrator, attempting to make sense of his relationship with Annie within the context of his entire life.
Annie Hall begins with Alvy speaking directly to the camera. He delivers a few key jokes that set the tone rightaway. His pessimism owes its origin to his childhood. The flashback takes us to his visit to a doctor at the age of nine. Alvy is depressed because, as he explains, the universe is expanding and it is likely to explode one day. He has a few more episodes till he arrives at the place when he began dating Annie, an aspiring singer and she shows up late for their movie date.
In line at the theater, the couple bickers: Alvy complains about the obnoxious loudmouth behind him; Annie, about missing her therapy session.
From there their relationship leads to an unsatisfactory bout in bed. The film flashes back to Alvy’s first wife, Allison. Such jump in flasback is satisfactorily sustained because of an image or phrase that crops up and it is a cue for breaking the chronological order of his narration.. For example Annie while in bed asks about Allison, which explains how he met her at a fundraiser, and their sexual problems when married. The film also flashes back to Annie’s previous romantic relationships. Instead of the devise of speech balloons in a comic strip Woody Allen resorts to this unusual gag which is purely visual: he and Annie let us know their views as each partner present their past. The film succeeds in spite of the patter that isn’t first class. For example after sex with Annie his comment ‘That sex was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing’ is borrowed from a quote,”That was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing” by H.L. Mencken in 1942 (and later by Humphrey Bogart). Towards the end after losing Annie Hall he is shooting a film referring to their reltionship but with a happy ending. His observes,“You’re always trying to get things to come out perfect in art because it’s real difficult in life.” It could have been from any of the Wildean plays but without his polish.
Ultimately the film is of a high quality throughout. It won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1977. Allen walked off with the Best Director award while Keaton deservedly won for Best Actress. Premiere voted this movie as one of “The 50 Greatest Comedies Of All Time” in 2006.
* Some of the murder mystery elements that were meant to be part of this film were transferred by Woody Allen to his later film Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), which also co-starred Diane Keaton.
* Alvy’s (Woody Allen’s) sneezing into the cocaine was an unscripted accident. When previewed, the audience laughed so loud that director Allen decided to leave it in, and had to add footage to compensate for people missing the next few jokes from laughing too much.
* During the lobster-cooking scene Annie runs and retrieves a camera to take pictures of Alvy dealing with the crustaceans. Later, when Alvy runs over to Annie’s house to smash a spider, the series of photos Annie took is on the wall in the background.
* Diane Keaton’s real name is Diane Hall and her nickname is Annie.
* Sigourney Weaver’s screen debut, in a non-speaking part as Alvy’s date near the end of the movie.
* The jokes that Woody Allen tells in front of the audience at the University of Wisconsin and on “The Dick Cavett Show” (1968) are from his stand-up comic days.
* Annie’s outfits, which caused a brief fashion rage, were Diane Keaton’s own clothes.
* When waiting in front of the movie theater, Alvy Singer says, “I’m standing out here with the cast of the Godfather,” to Diane Keaton, who was in the cast of The Godfather (1972). Additionally, one of the men who bothers him for the autograph is played by actor Rick Petrucelli, who had a small role in The Godfather as a thug who protects Michael en route to the hospital.
* In the scene where Alvy questions people on the street about what makes a relationship, a large crowd can be seen in the background watching the filming.
* Ben Stiller comments how he likes the scene when Alvy has to meet Annie’s family in AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies (1998) (TV) and how it relates to him personally because he always was very apprehensive meeting his girlfriends’ parents. Stiller starred in Meet the Parents (2000), which revolved around that very idea.
* Alvy calls the two fans that pester him at the movie theatre ‘Cheech’. In Bullets Over Broadway (1994), also directed by Allen, Chazz Palminteri’s gangster character is called ‘Cheech.’
* The film’s working title was “Anhedonia” – the inability to feel pleasure. United Artists fought against it (among other things, they were unable to come up with an ad campaign that explained the meaning of the word) and Allen compromised on naming the film after the central character three weeks before the film’s premiere.
* The film Alvy is waiting to see with Annie is Ansikte mot ansikte (1976) (Face to Face) by Ingmar Bergman, one of Woody Allen’s biggest influences.
* The first rough cut ran 2 hours and 20 minutes. Among the scenes later eliminated were: segments showing Alvy’s former classmates in the present day; Alvy as a teenager; a scene in a junk-food restaurant (featuring Danny Aiello); extensive additional scenes featuring Carol Kane, Janet Margolin, Colleen Dewhurst and Shelley Duvall; and a fantasy segment at Madison Square Garden featuring the New York Knicks competing against a team of five great philosophers. Christopher Walken’s driving scene was also cut, but was restored a week before the film was completed. New material for the ending was filmed on three occasions, but most was discarded. The final montage was a late addition.
* One scene cut from the film is a fantasy sequence of Annie and Alvy visiting hell. This scene was rewritten 20 years later for Allen’s Deconstructing Harry (1997).
* Marshall McLuhan was not Allen’s first choice. Federico Fellini and Luis Buñuel were asked first.
* The completely silent credits were inspired by The Front (1976), which starred Woody Allen.
* Alvy and Annie never say “I love you” to each other. The closest they come is when Alvy says love isn’t a strong enough word for how he feels.
* During the classroom flashbacks, one of the teachers writes, “Tuesday, December 1” on the chalkboard. December 1 is Woody Allen’s birthday, and Tuesday December 1, 1942 was his seventh birthday, tying in with the school setting.
* On “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” (1993) (28 February 1995), Harvey Fierstein revealed that both he and Danny Aiello had bit parts in this classic, but their scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
* Woody Allen originally filmed a scene in which a traffic advisory sign “urges” Alvy to go to Annie in California. Editor Ralph Rosenblum wrote that Allen was so disgusted by the scene’s cuteness that he took the footage and threw it into the East River. The traffic-sign motif was later used in Steve Martin’s “L.A. Story.”
* The passerby Alvy refers to as “the winner of the Truman Capote look-alike contest” is in fact Truman Capote, who appears uncredited.
* Admiral Elmo Zumwalt appears on “The Dick Cavett Show” (1968) in the clip with Woody Allen (Alvy Singer).
* [June 2008] Ranked #2 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Romantic Comedy”.
* The movie’s line “Hey, don’t knock masturbation – it’s sex with someone I love!” was voted as the #78 of “The 100 Greatest Movie Lines” by Premiere in 2007.
* * When Alvy is listing the reasons he doesn’t like the country, he mentions “the Manson family, and Dick and Perry” — Dick and Perry are references to Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the two men who invaded the home of, and murdered, the Clutter family on their farm in Kansas in 1959.
Alvy Singer: Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.
Alvy Singer: My grammy never gave gifts. She was too busy getting raped by Cossacks.
Annie Hall: La-di-da, la-di-da, la la.
[after sex with Annie]
Alvy Singer: That sex was the most fun I’ve ever had without laughing.
Annie Hall: It’s so clean out here.
Alvy Singer: That’s because they don’t throw their garbage away, they turn it into television shows.
Annie Hall: So you wanna go into the movie or what?
Alvy Singer: No, I can’t go into a movie that’s already started, because I’m anal.
Annie Hall: That’s a polite word for what you are.
Duane: Can I confess something? I tell you this as an artist,I think you’ll understand. Sometimes when I’m driving… on the road at night… I see two headlights coming toward me. Fast. I have this sudden impulse to turn the wheel quickly, head-on into the oncoming car. I can anticipate the explosion. The sound of shattering glass. The… flames rising out of the flowing gasoline.
Alvy Singer: Right. Well, I have to – I have to go now, Duane, because I, I’m due back on the planet Earth.
[a guest is calling his meditation guru]
Party guest: Hello? I forgot my mantra.
Alvy Singer: What’s with all these awards? They’re always giving out awards. Best Fascist Dictator: Adolf Hitler.
[Alvy addresses a pair of strangers on the street]
Alvy Singer: Here, you look like a very happy couple, um, are you?
Female street stranger: Yeah.
Alvy Singer: Yeah? So, so, how do you account for it?
Female street stranger: Uh, I’m very shallow and empty and I have no ideas and nothing interesting to say.
Male street stranger: And I’m exactly the same way.
Alvy Singer: I see. Wow. That’s very interesting. So you’ve managed to work out something?
Alvy Singer: [addressing the camera] There’s an old joke – um… two elderly women are at a Catskill mountain resort, and one of ’em says, “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, “Yeah, I know; and such small portions.” Well, that’s essentially how I feel about life – full of loneliness, and misery, and suffering, and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly. The… the other important joke, for me, is one that’s usually attributed to Groucho Marx; but, I think it appears originally in Freud’s “Wit and Its Relation to the Unconscious,” and it goes like this – I’m paraphrasing – um, “I would never want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member.” That’s the key joke of my adult life, in terms of my relationships with women.
Alvy Singer: I don’t want to move to a city where the only cultural advantage is being able to make a right turn on a red light.
[after Annie parks the car]
Alvy Singer: Don’t worry. We can walk to the curb from here.
Annie Hall: Sometimes I ask myself how I’d stand up under torture.
Alvy Singer: You? You kiddin’? If the Gestapo would take away your Bloomingdale’s charge card, you’d tell ’em everything.
Alvy Singer: Annie, there’s a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can’t get it out. This thing’s heavy. Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side.
Annie Hall: Oh, you see an analyst?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, just for fifteen years.
Annie Hall: Fifteen years?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, I’m gonna give him one more year, and then I’m goin’ to Lourdes.
Alvy Singer: A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.
Alvy Singer: Love is too weak a word for what I feel – I luuurve you, you know, I loave you, I luff you, two F’s, yes I have to invent, of course I – I do, don’t you think I do?
[Annie wants to smoke marijuana before sex]
Alvy Singer: Yeah, grass, right? The illusion that it will make a white woman more like Billie Holiday.
Annie Hall: Well, have you ever made love high?
Alvy Singer: Me? No. I – I, you know, If I have grass or alcohol or anything, I get unbearably wonderful. I get too, too wonderful for words. I don’t know why you have to get high every time we make love.
Annie Hall: It relaxes me.
Alvy Singer: You have to be artificially relaxed before we can go to bed?
Annie Hall: Well, what’s the difference anyway?
Alvy Singer: Well, I’ll give you a shot of sodium pentathol. You can sleep through it.
Annie Hall: Oh come on. Look who’s talking. You’ve been seeing a psychiatrist for 15 years. You should smoke some of this. You’d be off the couch in no time.
[Alvy is having sex with Annie]
Alvy Singer: Hey, is something wrong?
Annie Hall: No, why?
Alvy Singer: I don’t know. It’s like you’re removed.
[a ghost of Annie rises from herself, and sits in a chair to watch]
Annie Hall: No, I’m fine.
Alvy Singer: Are you with me?
Annie Hall: Uh, huh.
Alvy Singer: I don’t know. You seem sort of distant.
Annie Hall: Let’s just do it, all right?
Alvy Singer: Is it my imagination, or are you just going through the motions?
Ghost of Annie Hall: Alvy, do you remember where I put my drawing pad? Because while you two are doing that, I think I’m going to do some drawing.
Alvy Singer: [gesturing to the ghost] You see, that’s what I call removed.
[Alvy Singer does a stand-up comic act for a college audience]
Alvy Singer: I was thrown out of N.Y.U. my freshman year for cheating on my metaphysics final, you know. I looked within the soul of the boy sitting next to me. When I was thrown out, my mother, who was an emotionally high-strung woman, locked herself in the bathroom and took an overdose of Mah-Jongg tiles. I was depressed at that time. I was in analysis. I was suicidal as a matter of fact and would have killed myself, but I was in analysis with a strict Freudian, and, if you kill yourself, they make you pay for the sessions you miss.
[Alvy confronts Annie about having an affair]
Alvy Singer: Well, I didn’t start out spying. I thought I’d surprise you. Pick you up after school.
Annie Hall: Yeah, but you wanted to keep the relationship flexible. Remember, it’s your phrase.
Alvy Singer: Oh stop it, you’re having an affair with your college professor, that jerk that teaches that incredible crap course, Contemporary Crisis in Western Man…
Annie Hall: Existential Motifs in Russian Literature. You’re really close.
Alvy Singer: What’s the difference? It’s all mental masturbation.
Annie Hall: Oh, well, now we’re finally getting to a subject you know something about.
Alvy Singer: Hey, don’t knock masturbation. It’s sex with someone I love.
Annie Hall: We’re not having an affair. He’s married. He just happens to think I’m neat.
Alvy Singer: “Neat.” What are you, 12 years old? That’s one of your Chippewa Falls expressions.
Annie Hall: Who cares? Who cares?
Alvy Singer: Next thing you know, he’ll find you keen and peachy, you know. Next thing you know, he’s got his hand on your ass.
Annie Hall: You’ve always had hostility towards David, ever since I mentioned him.
Alvy Singer: Dav – you call your teacher David?
Annie Hall: It’s his name.
Alvy Singer: It’s a Biblical name, right? What does he call you, Bathsheba?
Alvy Singer: It’s mental masturbation!
Annie Hall: And you would know all about THAT, wouldn’t you?
Alvy Singer: Hey, don’t knock masturbation! It’s sex with someone I love.
Annie Hall: So I told her about, about the family and about my feelings towards men and about my relationship with my brother. And then she mentioned penis envy. Do you know about that?
Alvy Singer: Me? I’m, I’m one of the few males who suffers from that.
[Alvy questions an old man on the street about his sex life]
Alvy Singer: With your wife in bed, does she need some kind of artificial stimulation, like, like marijuana?
Old man on street: We use a large vibrating egg.
Pam: Sex with you is really a Kafka-esque experience.
Alvy Singer: Oh. Thank you.
Pam: I mean that as a compliment.
Alvy Singer: I think, I think there’s too much burden placed on the orgasm, you know, to make up for empty areas in life.
Pam: Who said that?
Alvy Singer: It may have been Leopold and Loeb.
[Alvy sees a program from the Fillmore East and The National Review in Annie’s apartment]
Alvy Singer: Are you going with a right-wing rock ‘n roll star?
Alvy Singer: Honey, there’s a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick.
[Alvy has killed two spiders]
Alvy Singer: I did it. I killed ’em both.
[Annie starts crying]
Alvy Singer: What’s the matter? What are you sad about? What did you want me to do? Capture ’em and rehabilitate ’em?
Alvy Singer: You know, I don’t think I could take a mellow evening because I – I don’t respond well to mellow. You know what I mean? I have a tendency to – if I get too mellow, I – I ripen and then rot, you know.
[Alvy is asked to try cocaine]
Alvy Singer: I don’t want to put a wad of white powder in my nose. There’s the nasal membrane…
Annie Hall: You never want to try anything new, Alvy.
Alvy Singer: How can you say that? Whose idea was it? I said that you, I and that girl from your acting class should sleep together in a threesome.
Annie Hall: Well, that’s sick.
Alvy Singer: Yeah, I know it’s sick, but it’s new. You didn’t say it couldn’t be sick.
Annie Hall: Alvy, you’re incapable of enjoying life, you know that? I mean you’re like New York City. You’re just this person. You’re like this island unto yourself.
Alvy Singer: I can’t enjoy anything unless everybody is. If one guy is starving someplace, that puts a crimp in my evening.
Alvy Singer: I remember the staff at our public school. You know, we had a saying, uh, that those who can’t do teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym. And, uh, those who couldn’t do anything, I think, were assigned to our school.
Alvy Singer: They did not take me in the Army. I was, um, interestingly enough, I was, I was 4-P. Yes. In the, in the event of war, I’m a hostage.
Annie Hall: You’re what Grammy Hall would call a real Jew.
Alvy Singer: Oh. Thank you.
Alvy Singer: In 1942 I had already discovered women.
[Young Alvy kisses girl in school]
Alvy’s Classmate: Yecch. He kissed me, he kissed me. Yecch.
Miss Reed: That’s the second time this month. Step up here.
Alvy at 9: What’d I do?
Miss Reed: Step up here.
Alvy at 9: What did I do?
Miss Reed: You should be ashamed of yourself.
Alvy Singer: Why? I was just expressing a healthy sexual curiosity.
Miss Reed: Six year old boys don’t have girls on their minds.
Alvy Singer: I did.
Alvy’s Classmate: For God’s sake, Alvy, even Freud speaks of a latency period.
Alvy Singer: Well, I never had a latency period. I can’t help it.
Alvy Singer: I’m so tired of spending evenings making fake insights with people who work for “Dysentery.”
Alvy Singer: Oh really? I had heard that “Commentary” and “Dissent” had merged and formed “Dysentery.”
Allison: I’m in the midst of doing my thesis.
Alvy Singer: On what?
Allison: Political commitment in twentieth century literature.
Alvy Singer: You, you, you’re like New York, Jewish, left-wing, liberal, intellectual, Central Park West, Brandeis University, the socialist summer camps and the, the father with the Ben Shahn drawings, right, and the really, y’know, strike-oriented kind of, red diaper, stop me before I make a complete imbecile of myself.
Allison: No, that was wonderful. I love being reduced to a cultural stereotype.
Alvy Singer: Right, I’m a bigot, I know, but for the left.
Robin: There’s Henry Drucker. He has a chair in history at Princeton. Oh, and the short man is Hershel Kaminsky. He has a chair in philosophy at Cornell.
Alvy Singer: Yeah? Two more chairs they got a dining room set.
Alvy Singer: [narrating] After that it got pretty late, and we both had to go, but it was great seeing Annie again. I… I realized what a terrific person she was, and… and how much fun it was just knowing her; and I… I, I thought of that old joke, y’know, the, this… this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs.
Alvy Singer: Sun is bad for you. Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat… college.
[Annie’s family and Alvy’s family converse through a split screen]
Mom Hall: How do you plan to spend the holidays, Mrs. Singer?
Alvy’s Mom: We fast.
Dad Hall: Fast?
Alvy’s Dad: No food. You know, to atone for our sins.
Mom Hall: What sins? I don’t understand.
Alvy’s Dad: To tell you the truth, neither do we.
[Alvy fantasizes being in love with the Wicked Queen from Snow White]
Wicked Queen: We never have any fun any more.
Alvy Singer: How can you say that?
Wicked Queen: Why not? You’re always leaning on me to improve myself.
Alvy Singer: You’re just upset. You must be getting your period.
Wicked Queen: I don’t get a period. I’m a cartoon character.
Alvy Singer: Lyndon Johnson is a politician, you know the ethics those guys have. It’s like a notch underneath child molester.
[Rob has bailed Alvy out of jail]
Rob: Imagine my surprise when I got your call, Max.
Alvy Singer: Yeah. I had the feeling that I got you at a bad moment. You know, I heard high-pitched squealing.
Rob: Twins, Max! 16 years-old. Can you imagine the mathematical possibilities?
Alvy Singer: [glum] You’re an actor, Max. You should be doing Shakespeare in the Park.
Rob: Oh, I did Shakespeare in the Park, Max. I got mugged. I was playing Richard the Second and two guys with leather jackets stole my leotard.
[Alvy and Annie are seeing their therapists at the same time on a split screen]
Alvy Singer’s Therapist: How often do you sleep together?
Annie Hall’s Therapist: Do you have sex often?
Alvy Singer: [lamenting] Hardly ever. Maybe three times a week.
Annie Hall: [annoyed] Constantly. I’d say three times a week.
[On Pam being a Rosicrucian]
Alvy Singer: I can’t get with any religion that advertises in Popular Mechanics.
Alvy Singer: Oh my God, she’s right. Why did I turn off Allison Portchnik? She was beautiful, she was willing. She was real intelligent. Is it the old Groucho Marx joke that I’m – I just don’t want to belong to any club that would have someone like me for a member?
Alvy Singer: Hey, Harvard makes mistakes too! Kissinger taught there!
Alvy Singer: I feel that life is divided into the horrible and the miserable. That’s the two categories. The horrible are like, I don’t know, terminal cases, you know, and blind people, crippled. I don’t know how they get through life. It’s amazing to me. And the miserable is everyone else. So you should be thankful that you’re miserable, because that’s very lucky, to be miserable.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Why are you depressed, Alvy?
Alvy’s Mom: Tell Dr. Flicker.
[Young Alvy sits, his head down – his mother answers for him]
Alvy’s Mom: It’s something he read.
Doctor in Brooklyn: Something he read, huh?
Alvy at 9: [his head still down] The universe is expanding.
Doctor in Brooklyn: The universe is expanding?
Alvy at 9: Well, the universe is everything, and if it’s expanding, someday it will break apart and that would be the end of everything!
Alvy’s Mom: What is that your business?
[she turns back to the doctor]
Alvy’s Mom: He stopped doing his homework!
Alvy at 9: What’s the point?
Alvy’s Mom: What has the universe got to do with it? You’re here in Brooklyn! Brooklyn is not expanding!
Doctor in Brooklyn: It won’t be expanding for billions of years yet, Alvy. And we’ve gotta try to enjoy ourselves while we’re here!
Pam: The only word for this is transplendent… it’s transplendent!
Alvy Singer: [the man behind him in line is talking loudly] What I wouldn’t give for a large sock with horse manure in it!
Alvy Singer: [to audience] Whaddya do when you get stuck in a movie line with a guy like this behind you?
Man in Theatre Line: Wait a minute, why can’t I give my opinion? It’s a free country!
Alvy Singer: He can give it… do you have to give it so loud? I mean, aren’t you ashamed to pontificate like that? And the funny part of it is, Marshall McLuhan, you don’t know anything about Marshall McLuhan!
Man in Theatre Line: Oh, really? Well, it just so happens I teach a class at Columbia called “TV, Media and Culture.” So I think my insights into Mr. McLuhan, well, have a great deal of validity!
Alvy Singer: Oh, do ya? Well, that’s funny, because I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here, so, so, yeah, just let me…
[pulls McLuhan out from behind a nearby poster]
Alvy Singer: come over here for a second… tell him!
Marshall McLuhan: I heard what you were saying! You know nothing of my work! You mean my whole fallacy is wrong. How you got to teach a course in anything is totally amazing!
Alvy Singer: Boy, if life were only like this!
Alvy Singer: Sylvia Plath – interesting poetess whose tragic suicide was misinterpreted as romantic by the college girl mentality.
Alvy Singer: Hey listen, gimme a kiss.
Annie Hall: Really?
Alvy Singer: Yeah, why not, because we’re just gonna go home later, right, and then there’s gonna be all that tension, we’ve never kissed before and I’ll never know when to make the right move or anything. So we’ll kiss now and get it over with, and then we’ll go eat. We’ll digest our food better.
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