Saturday, April 30, 2011

#267. Love and Death (1975)

Directed By: Woody Allen

Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Harold Gould

Tag line: "The Comedy Sensation Of The Year!"

Trivia:  Woody Allen claims that, of all the movies he's done, this is his favorite and most personal.

Love and Death acts as a gateway between the two “careers” of Woody Allen, joining the early, madcap comedies that preceded it (Bananas, Sleeper) with the more analytical films (Annie Hall, Manhattan) that would soon follow. As such. Love and Death works on two levels; inviting us to ponder life’s more dramatic elements while, at the same time, making sure we have plenty to laugh about.

Boris (Woody Allen), a 19th century Russian peasant, is in love with his beautiful cousin, Sonja (Diane Keaton). But before Boris gets a chance to act on these feelings, he’s drafted into the army to fight for Mother Russia, which has been invaded by Napoleon's army. A coward at heart, Boris nonetheless (and quite accidentally) proves himself a hero in battle, and returns home a new man, intent on marrying Sonja. Unfortunately for him, cousin Sonja has other things on her mind, such as her plan to assassinate Napoleon, for which she's recruited the reluctant Boris to assist her.

Any fan of Allen’s zany style of humor will find enough of it in Love and Death to keep them laughing. While telling us about his family, Boris (who also acts as the film's narrator) relates the story of a piece of property his father owned, one the old man was very proud of. “True, it was a small piece”, Boris says over an image of his father holding a lump of sod, “but he carried it with him wherever he went”. Intertwined with the guffaws, Allen also manages to examine the more serious aspects of life, yet does so with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Along with love, romance and death, the writer/director sets his sights on the atrocities of war, taking direct aim at both the insanity of battle and the rigid codes inherent in a military system. During basic training, Boris often finds himself at odds with his intense drill sergeant (Frank Adu, who plays the part as is he were training troops on Parris Island). When the sergeant asks the unwilling Boris if he’s trying to get himself a dishonorable discharge, Boris replies, “Yes sir, either that or a furlough”. As you might expect from a film set in the Russia of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, there are serious topics at play in Love and Death, yet every probing discussion is presented with Allen’s distinctly humorous touch.

In Love and Death, comedy and philosophy work in unison to create one of the most unique movies in Woody Allen’s filmography. Who else but he could deliver a debate on the subjectivity of morality, and a scene with a vendor selling hot dogs in the middle of a battlefield? With Love and Death, Allen has given us the best of both his worlds.


No comments: