Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, James Tolkan
Director: Woody Allen
Running Time: 85 mins
Love And Death is an American film about a Russian soldier in love with his cousin who, after years of trying, finally marries her, and formulates a plot with her to assassinate Napoleon.
While featuring the odd standout, the early works of Woody Allen are littered with extreme quirks like Love And Death – a film with next to no mainstream appeal, and yet still with the anarchic comic delight that the director is so well-known for.
A satire on classic Russian literature that, unless you’re a fan of just that, few will manage to really get, Love And Death is certainly an acquired taste, and while I’ll admit that a vast majority of the gags and in-jokes went way, way over my head, I have to say that I still had a rather fun time with this movie.
It’s not on the level of the legendary likes of Annie Hall or Manhattan, nor is it quite as exciting as Allen’s love letters to cinema like The Purple Rose Of Cairo, but there’s something about the director’s frenetic passion for the subject matter here that makes Love And Death a surprisingly entertaining watch, even if you haven’t got a clue what most of the jokes are making fun of.
As with all Woody Allen movies, the dialogue is on point at every moment, not only brimming with brilliantly witty humour but hilarious hyper-philosophical introspection, as we spend most of the film with Allen and Diane Keaton pondering on all things life and philosophy have to offer, played out through frantic and crazed conversations.
Love And Death isn’t the funniest Woody Allen film you’ll ever see, nor is it the most interesting or thought-provoking. But as far as blending ridiculously complex philosophy with stupid humour goes, this is one of his best films, and as unintelligibly complicated as some of the dialogue is, his inimitable brand of comedy is more than enough to have you laughing and smiling throughout.
However, as surprisingly enjoyable as a lot of the movie is, it’s not one that’s immensely easy to appreciate for mainstream audiences. Woody Allen’s intense and detailed passion for art from all spheres – whether it be radio, cinema, or in this case, Russian literature – is always great to see, but he doesn’t make his films entirely accessible for those of us who don’t have the faintest idea what he’s parodying or paying homage to.
As a result, unless you know your classic Russian literature, a lot (and I mean a lot) of Love And Death will go straight over your head. You can pick up the odd thing here and there, but in terms of really getting to grips with how the narrative parodies the literature, it’s not particularly easy for general audiences, and that’s something that makes the film feel a lot more boring than it should at points.
It is a short watch, and thanks to the frenetic energy of the humour and both Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s delightfully eccentric performances, the fun factor doesn’t disappear the moment that things become a lot more obscure, but as far as accessible watches go, Love And Death is probably as far away from that that you can get, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.1 overall.