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Saturday, October 22, 2016

SLEEPER (1973)

When people talk about the flat out funny pics Woody Allen use to make, this is what they’re talking about. (Co-scripted with Marshall Brickman, his fourth & final Allen collaboration, MANHATTAN MURDER MYSTERY/’93, was the last in this carefree comic vein.) The basic idea, RIP VAN WINKLE meets 1984 (but 200 years in the future) is all but foolproof; and if some of the gags are a little too easy (reversed reputation jokes on food, literature & art) or a few dated references need annotation (Teachers’ Union Prez Albert Shanker was pretty obscure even at the time), most still land. Demerit points for undercranked action & lazy moments where Diane Keaton & Allen talk over each other to hide lagging comic invention. But generally, Woody works his material to fine, funny effect. Even when he hasn’t the physical skills & discipline to deliver on his attempts at silent comedy shtick, he pulls it off with just the idea of slapstick, looking back toward Harry Langdon and forward to Peter Sellers. And what a clever (and frugal) decision to craft the future out of ‘found’ modern buildings, as Truffaut & Godard did in FAHRENHEIT 451/’66 (which has a similar look) and ALPHAVILLE/’65 (which doesn’t.)

DOUBLE-BILL: Allen took the leap into legit filmmaking on his next, LOVE AND DEATH/’75, but no one noticed at the time. OR: The two French New Wave films just mentioned.

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