Love and Death (Woody Allen) 1975

Love and Death is set in Russia during roughly the time of Napoleon’s invasion.  Nebbish Boris (Woody Allen) is trying to woo Sonja (Diane Keaton) but is caught up in the events of the time.  First he has to serve in the military despite being a pacifist, then is swept up in a plot to assassinate Napoleon.

This movie has been reported to be Woody’s personal favorite and I can easily see why.  It is clear to see his familiarity and love of Russian culture as he parodies psychology, literature, philosophy, and history.  He is doing more intellectual comedy and, even though it is still a little wacky, you see a lot more of Woody sorting out his own personal beliefs.  It is a nice meshing of his comedy writing, his philosophical musings, and his personal interests.

I kept wanting to really love this movie because it has a lot of things I should find really funny.  All during it I found it amusing, however I wasn’t finding it funny.  Part of that is most likely the fact I am doing a 40 movie re-visiting of Woody Allen so some weariness could be expected.  I mean, as good as it is too much of anything is no good for you.  It might also be that this is still something of a transitional period for Woody; going from screwball comedy to the intellectual comedy many are familiar with.

Personally I am chalking this up to being in something of a bad mood.  I say that because, for as little as I was laughing during the movie as it was playing, much of the movie has remained in my mind in the days since I have seen it.  The dialog is very witty and smart while in the same breath delivering ‘wah wah’ level puns.  And this quote by Diane Keaton,

“To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love, but then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer, not to love is to suffer, to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love, to be happy then is to suffer but suffering makes one unhappy, therefore to be unhappy one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.”

That has to be one of my favorite quotes from a Woody Allen movie.  Love and Death is a movie that grows on you and despite my less than enthusiastic initial reception, this will be a movie I re-review before any other Woody Allen movie.  This movie probably isn’t for everyone or at least people unfamiliar with Woody.  Some of the earlier movies are better jumping on points.  To anyone that loves the intellectual comedy Woody does later in his career, I think there is a lot to love about this movie.  This review was short but up next in the retrospective is the classic Annie Hall.


One Response to “Love and Death (Woody Allen) 1975”

  1. I think your review is spot-on. I never heard the sound of my own laugh, but I thoroughly enjoyed this movie even if it is a style I’m not familiar with. As you said, knowing Woody’s work does help provide a better appreciation for Love and Death. I thought the angel of death was hilarious. I loved the monologues–how Woody Allen that was. Bravo on the review. I read this immediately after his last line, “and that’s it for me.”

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