Love and Death (1975) – Woody Allen


The next recommendation from the Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of Manhattan was, Love and Death.

Once again, I was pleasantly surprised to the story, but still don’t care for Woody Allen’s acting ability.

This time around, Allen takes on the Russians… He’s a neurotic soldier, Boris, in Czarist Russia, who is accused of being a coward, but is jut more interested in chasing down his cousin, Sonja (Diane Keaton), and finally marrying her. She, however, has bigger plans, when she learns of the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte (James Tolkan) and sees an opportunity to assassinate him and stop a war.

There is a lot of fun dialogue, as the characters discuss, in stereotypical ways, objectivity, subjectivity, morality, love, sin and death. Sonja waxes political and poetical, and oft-times, it feels, quite rightly, that they are poking fun at Russian novels, characters and films.

There are actually a number of fun moments, including the appearance of  Boris’ drill sergeant, Boris’ assassination attempt on Napoleon, and the fun sequences featuring some of Boris’ rather eccentric relatives.

Allen does have a knack for great little throwaway lines, word plays, sight gags, and just absurd moments, like the duel, or chatting with death, but he, as actor, simply pushes me out of the film, each and every time.

Love and Death 6

Keaton gets to spout some wonderful dialogue, and she seems quite at home playing in a realm that pays homage, while at the same time poking fun.

Occasionally, Allen breaks the fourth wall, and talks to the camera, and that is quite annoying, some people can do it, some can’t, and I don’t think he can. But that doesn’t change the fact, that a lot of the script is really very funny, and I enjoyed what I watched.

Allen makes use of music, and scenery, as well as an expansive cast to give the film its epic feel, and like I said, I was delightfully surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did.

So, I have to say, that for a series of films I had great trepidation about approaching, I, so far, have been pleasantly surprised by what I’ve seen so far. There’s only one left on the list for me too watch, Annie Hall, and then yes, I will be open to other Allen suggestions.

I think, I may start to enjoy some of his later films, the ones that he doesn’t act in, but at least for the most part (I really didn’t like Sleeper), I have liked the ones I’ve come across so far. I am looking forward to leaving the comedy section behind though, and hitting some other titles…

love and death


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