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Wick's Review

Created Oct 11, 2014 12:53AM PST • Edited Dec 11, 2019 05:58AM PST

  1. Quality
  2. Great 4.0

    Love and Death made me a Woody Allen fan, a film so funny, so smart, a film like I’d never seen before. Being but 15 at the time, how could it be otherwise. One of Woody’s great comedies, Love and Death remains pleasantly absurd, if no longer bellylaugh funny, yet still unspools a plethora of classic LOLs.

    Woody grounded his Russian parody on Crime and Punishment, War and Peace and other conjunctive titles from the great Russian novelists. Then he processed everything through two disparate lenses: classic Soviet cinema directed by Eisenstein and the wackiness of the Marx Brothers, Bob Hope and Charlie Chaplin.

    Mostly it’s Jewish humor set in iconic Gentile settings, of which Czarist Russia was a cradle in 1812, when Napoleon invaded and captured Moscow. The movie’s conceit features moral adolescents playing at moral sophistication, for instance confusing murder and war. Further stating “Morality is subjective.” No, it’s not.

    Conceit and confusion aside, Love and Death is tremendously funny.

    • “Nature is like a big restaurant.”
    • Countess Alexandrovna: “My bedroom at midnight?” Boris: “Perfect. Will you be there too?”
    • Her: “You are the greatest lover I’ve ever had.” Him: “Well, I practice a lot when I’m alone.”

    With jokes like that, Love and Death kills. It simply slays. Well, maybe not simply…

  3. Great 4.0

    Woody Allen as himself, a physically weak man with a New York Jewish comedic sensibility, yet existing as the youngest son of an aristocratic Russian Orthodox family. Boris the Coward occupies a hallowed place in Woody’s acting oeuvre.

    Diane Keaton as Sonja, his second cousin twice removed, beautifully unattainable. Love and Death was the third of eight movies Keaton made with Allen, during some of which they were also an item. Apparently in real life she was readily attainable.

    Notables from the Large Supporting Cast
    • Olga Georges-Picot as the bodacious Countess Alexandrovna: This luscious French actress was born in Shanghai, the daughter of the French Ambassador to China. She provides the movie’s substantial and sophisticated sex appeal. Alas, she later suffered depression and committed suicide at age 57. One wonders what the creator of Love and Death thought of that real life death?
    • Harold Gould as her jealous suitor: The prolific Gould has 196 acting credits on IMDb, most from TV. If you were alive in 1975, you’ll recognize him.
    • James Tolkan as Napoleon and his double. Spitting image!
    • Zvee Scooler as Woody’s crazy Father.
    • Féodor Atkine, a great character actor, as Woody’s macho brother
    • Alfred Lutter as Young Woody, er, Young Boris
    • Lloyd Battista as Don Francisco, the Spanish envoy to Napoleon
  4. Male Stars Great 4.0
  5. Female Stars Great 4.0
  6. Female Costars Great 4.0
  7. Male Costars Great 4.0
  8. Really Great 4.5

    Woody Allen’s early masterpiece is chock full of ideas and stuffed to the gills with LOLs. There’s enough of both to forgive the puerile Left Wing worldview that suffuses the entire creation.

  9. Direction Perfect 5.0
  10. Play Really Great 4.5
  11. Music Perfect 5.0

    Woody’s use of Sergei Prokofiev’s masterful compositions enlivens the film and evokes the Russian people. Nevermind that Prokofiev composed them 100 plus years after the period the film recreates. Whoops.

  12. Visuals Really Great 4.5

    Love and Death is a high gloss period piece, lovingly recreating aristocratic Russia from the early 1800s.

  13. Content
  14. Risqué 2.2
  15. Sex Titillating 2.1
  16. Violence Fierce 2.1
  17. Rudeness Salty 2.5
  18. Supernatural 3.2

    As a parody, Love and Death has a well earned supernatural rFactor.

    Movie fakery aside, it opens a (parodistic) lens onto Russia’s Patriotic War of 1812, when Napoleon’s Grande Armée briefly captured Moscow.

    Philosophically, Woody’s obsession with death strikes this Jew as not Jewish. The Torah and the Rabbis alike focus on life and not death. More prosaically, it’s not that I’ve not met kvetchy Jews, it’s just that I don’t recall a one fixated on death.

    Finally, Woody’s puerile worldview devalues knowledge-work while idealizing serf-work, even though he is only capable of the former. Comedy aside, consider this quintessentially Left Wing thinking.

  19. Circumstantial Surreal 3.0
  20. Biological Supernatural 3.6
  21. Physical Surreal 2.9


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