Love & Death [VHS]

Love & Death [VHS]

Writer-director Woody Allen’s 1975 comedy finds the familiar Allen persona transposed to 19th-century Russia, as a cowardly serf drafted into the war against Napoleon, when all he’d rather do is write poetry and obsess over his beautiful but pretentious cousin (Diane Keaton). A total disaster as a soldier, Allen’s cowardice serves him well when he hides in a cannon and is shot into a tent of French soldiers, suddenly making him a national hero. After his cousin agrees to marry him, thinking he’l

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3 thoughts on “Love & Death [VHS]

  1. 29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Hot cockles and wheat, July 5, 2001
    By 

    This review is from: Love & Death [VHS] (VHS Tape)
    For me, “Love and Death” bridges together the slapstick satire of Woody’s early movies with the grand verbal wit of the later movies. It never falls into the trap of relying too much on the former, and its reliance on the latter produces some of the silliest Woody dialogue I’ve ever heard. But it’s the perfect mixture between the two that makes this my pick for funniest Woody Allen flick. So far.
    I’ve always felt that the context (Russia in the 19th century and the Napoleonic Wars) and the content (pre-existentialist philosophy) were fine targets to satire. The opening scenes, where Woody as narrator introduces his screwball family, are truly looney-tuney. And the scenes where Woody (Boris) and Diane Keaton (Sonja) talk philosophy, serve more to make fun of the ridiculous gibberish they are engaged in than to further the philosophical discourse. The truer philosophical discussions come in the form of setup-punchline jokes delivered later on (“If it turns out that there IS a God, I don’t think that he’s evil; I think that the worst you can say about him is that basically he’s an underachiever”). This is all good stuff.
    Woody’s performance here reminded me a lot of really good Groucho Marx. His wiseguy retorts to oblivious inquisitors are done in the same winking/nod to the camera manner that Groucho mined for gold. And Woody, with his messy red hair and horn-rimmed glasses, looks every bit the sarcastic clown that Groucho did. There’s one particular scene (“She’s a great kidder… No, you’re a great kidder… No, you’re Don Francisco’s sister”) which mimics the Marx Brothers doubletalk style perfectly. In the film’s second half, Woody takes a step back, to allow Diane Keaton some grand time in the Groucho persona. And she runs with it. Keaton is an underrated comic actress, usually overshadowed by Woody. Here, she rolls her eyes, grins goofily, has great comic timing, and appears to be having a gloriously good time delivering her dialogue. You can see Woody’s pride as he stands to the side and watches her go great guns.
    There are many truly hilarious scenes here (my favourite: Woody, drawn into a duel, is offered to choose his weapon from a pair of guns; he picks them both up, examines them for a moment, and then says “I’ll take these”), the scenery is shot gorgeously, the music by Prokofiev is jubilant and fits in perfectly with the film, and there is never a down moment. Come to think of it, the pace reminds me of the joke-a-minute style “pioneered” by the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker “Airplane” movies. Only Woody, dear Woody, bestows such intelligence and wit upon the material that it is elevated to a divine state.

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  2. 19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    Woody’s Best, September 19, 2002
    By 
    Vinzo “vinzo801@aol.com” (Boston, MA United States) –

    This review is from: Love and Death (DVD)
    Over the years, this is one of the Allen films that I most often revisit. It truly gets better the more times it is seen. The dialog is brilliant. The interplay between Allen and Keaton is perfect. I also think it is Diane Keaton’s best role as she has the opportunity to exercise her wonderful comic touch and timing. Each scene contains lines that have become classics: Allen; “I heard voices”. Keaton: “I was praying”. Allen: I heard two voices”. Keaton: “I do both parts”. The dialog is layered and the Russian literature references are very funny. This is a film treasure and certainly ranks with the great comedies of all time.

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  3. 15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
    5.0 out of 5 stars
    How about a nice big bowl of sleet?, December 17, 2001
    By 
    A. Meyer “Tunefan” (Texas U.S.A.) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: Love and Death (DVD)
    Woody Allen outdid himself by taking history and humor where it had never been before. When I first saw this film in the mid-70’s, I was not quite up to speed on my historical references and dry saracastic wit. Five years later I saw it a a repetory film theatre, and laughed so hard that I dropped my over-priced concessions all over my lap. I have laughed at many a Allen film, but “Love And Death” works on so many levels that it just kicks your “laugh trigger” into overdrive!!!
    I wish I had this mans smarts…I am amazed at Allens twisted weaving of story-telling and one-liners..My favorite is when he is in training and the seargent says “From now on you’ll clean the latrines and the mess hall” Allens response: “Sir, how can I tell the difference?”…..Hilarious…
    I’ve seen this film dozens of times, and it simply doesn’t get old..Allen has proven once again that if a joke is TRULY funny it can be repeated over and over again and have the same effect on people. The reclusive Woody Allen is the one celebrity I would like to meet….. to thank him for making this extraordinary film….it;s like a best friend I like to watch when I’m in the dumps..

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