Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sex, sex, sex.

I like Woody Allen just as much as the next person. I love Sleeper, I love Zelig, and Annie Hall and Manhattan are brilliant. As for his later work, I feel as though he fails in attempts to be too serious. (Match Point was unwatchable, in my opinion. Lots of bad acting. His casting choices often make no sense to me at all.) Woody suffers from having become somewhat of a cliché, and since he makes a movie almost every year, we know more or less what to expect from a Woody Allen flick, and it’s rare that he surprises us anymore. This is how I’ve felt about him for a little while now, until I saw Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…

Woody is a comedian. He’s a brilliant comedic writer, and we forget this about him when he attempts to be a “serious filmmaker,” but satire is what he is good at, and in my opinion, he should stick to it, because he doesn’t get much funnier than in this film. He takes a subject everyone is familiar with, a subject that he loves – sex – and looks at it from a variety of extremely absurd angles, whether it be the life of a sperm, a love affair with a sheep, or a giant tit bouncing through a field. His point? We all may be different, but we can all relate to the awkwardness of sex. Sex is funny and bizarre, and we forget that sometimes. (At least that's what I took from it.) Woody also craftfully displays his familiarity with many different genres and styles of film and television, from Italian art cinema to the TV game show.

This was without a doubt one of the films that helped establish Allen as one of the definitive filmmakers of the '70s - he adapted it loosely from a popular book at the time and cast a large number of popular actors of the time (several of them unexpected - Burt Reynolds and Lynn Redgrave, for example - not to mention Regis Philbin). The public ate it up - with a $2 million budget, the film grossed over $18 million on the U.S. alone. There is no doubt it did so well likely because it was released at the height of the sexual revolution. I think I enjoyed this film so much because it seems to be so definitive of an era in film I wish I could have experienced at the time - absurdity was more widely accepted as comedy, and people (like myself) weren't sick of Woody Allen yet - they were anxious to see what else he could do. After all, this was the last film he made before he standardized the opening credits for all of his subsequent films.

And of course, Gene Wilder, a man who can do no wrong in my opinion.

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