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USA 1975
Directed by
Woody Allen
85 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Love and Death

The last of Allen's "early" strictly comic films before he broke through to new ground with Annie Hall (1977), has the director, in his typical anxious schlemiel persona, playing an ineffectual Russian, Boris Dmitrivich Grushenko, who is persuaded by the woman (Diane Keaton) he loves to join her in a scheme to assassinate Napoleon.

Unusually for Allen this was a relatively big budget film with many extras and was shot largely in Hungary (he returned to his Manhattan territory and did not shoot outside New York again until Everyone Says I Love You in 1996). Showing the influence of Groucho Marx and Bob Hope, probably Allen's two principal comic models, the film is a series of gags many of them hilarious in an absurdist way, some of them just plain silly and some, like his joke about 12 year old virgins, cringeworthy.  Russian literature gets a good spoofing (Dostoievsky gets a workout, late in the film) whilst in magpie fashion Allen also appropriates the films of Sergei Eisenstein and Ingmar Bergman.

Apparently Allen regarded Love And Death highly. Perhaps he meant of films that he directed for 1972's Play It Again, Sam is a much more polished comedy although Keaton who plays her part with a kind of serio-comic awkwardness makes a good foil for Allen's sometimes repetitive comedic schtick.




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