28 February 2007

Love & Death

Love & Death
Love & Death is one of Woody Allen's "early, funny" films (the ones his fans prefer in the introspective fantasy Stardust Memories). Allen's films are often stereotyped as contemporary New York stories, though Love & Death couldn't be more different: it's set in Russia during the Napoleonic invasion.

Allen plays Boris, a pacifist forcibly dispatched to the front line. His trademark existential angst is present, in endless debates on theology and moral philosophy. Much of the comedy comes from Allen's anachronisms - he mishears "takes lovers" as 'takes uppers', for example. The film works as a parody of Russian literature and cinema, notably a quick montage of lethargic lion statues in an echo of Battleship Potemkin.

The Love of the title is represented by Diane Keaton, and her and Allen's scenes together are a joy to watch. I've always thought she was much warmer and more emotional than Allen's later partner/co-star Mia Farrow.

Death is personified by the Grim Reaper himself, in an extended reference to The Seventh Seal culminating in a 'dance of death' at the end of the film. In Bergman's film, the Reaper has a rather refined voice, though Allen's Reaper has a much deeper intonation, a characteristic later borrowed by Monty Python for the booming Reaper in The Meaning Of Life. In a further Bergman reference, Allen frames intersecting female faces in a recollection of Persona.