26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen's delirious comedy about the Napoleonic Wars.
Perhaps my favourite Woody Allen film (though there are numerous others to rival it), Love and Death is a delightfully funny and greatly intelligent little comedy that finds Allen creating one of his most loveable characters, the lovelorn coward Boris Grushenko, who really wants to spend the rest of his life with childhood sweetheart Sonja, but finds that the intentions...
Published on 15 Oct 2005 by Jonathan James Romley
2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A clumsy send up of generic, early '70s costume dramas
I'm a big fan of Woody Allen, but the great man has had his off moments, and this is one of them. It's an early film, reliant largely on what one might term 'slapshtick' or 'goofing around', which served him well enough in 'Bananas' and 'Sleeper' but here looks plain daft. It's an especially irritating film for anyone who knows "War & Peace": I accept this may be a tiny...
Published on 15 Sep 2010 by Film Lover
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen's delirious comedy about the Napoleonic Wars.,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)Perhaps my favourite Woody Allen film (though there are numerous others to rival it), Love and Death is a delightfully funny and greatly intelligent little comedy that finds Allen creating one of his most loveable characters, the lovelorn coward Boris Grushenko, who really wants to spend the rest of his life with childhood sweetheart Sonja, but finds that the intentions of a certain Napoleon Bonaparte keep getting in the way.
The film is beautifully shot on location in France and Hungary, with Allen and his director of photography Ghislain Cloquet making the most of the vast snowy landscapes or cavernous woodlands, whilst the interiors employ a great deal of candle-light and natural lighting, which brings to mind Kubrick's Barry Lyndon. In fact, Love and Death could be seen as something of a comedic take on certain themes prevalent in Kubrick's aforementioned masterpiece, with both films employing notions of loyalty, war, love, death, games and deception. True, Stanley would never have had his main protagonist shot out of a cannon into the exploding tent of the enemy, or, offered us a supporting character who spends more time worrying about fish than tending to the needs of his young wife... but still, the intention is there.
Because of this, the film works on a number of levels... firstly, as a comedy, or more importantly, as a spoof of historical epics, whilst the constant allusions to Russian literature and Russian cinema throughout (check the cross-cutting of the lions during Boris and Sonja's sex-scene, or the soldier shot through the eye in battle as a references to Battleship Potemkin) offer another layer of entertainment. It also offers some rather deep moments and ruminations on the nature of war and humanity and, of course, love and death itself... though these are sugarcoated beneath references to the likes of Socrates, Chaplin, Thomas Aquinas and, most obviously, Bergman.
Woody is at his best as the wise-cracking Grushenko, stumbling through battles, banquets and an assassination plot, whilst simultaneously offering more comic one-liners than an open mic night. This, along with Sleeper, is probably Woody's best film in terms of non-stop verbal comedy, with the back and forth sparring between Allen and his muse of this era, Diane Keaton (who is on great comic form as the loveless Sonja) is more obvious than it would be in later (more mature) projects like Annie Hall and Manhattan, with the pair managing to make jokes about everything, from war, to relationships and the metaphysical. Obviously I can't list every single classic line or sight gag, since there are far too many; though it must be said that the character of the father (a land-owner who literally carries his miniscule plot around in his pocket; "one day I hope to build on it" he says... and he does!!) is comedy genius, whilst the back and forth dialog between Boris and the Countess Alexandra is Allen at his wittiest ("you're the greatest lover I've ever had" she breathes, before Allen replies "well, I practice a lot when I'm alone").
The film is packed full of great moments, beautiful photography and production design and some perfectly judged comedic performances (further proof that Allen is one of the best and most underrated filmmakers in America), from Allen's bumbling, bespectacled assassin, to the dry and neurotic creation of Keaton ("I'm having trouble adjusting my belt... do you think you could come over here and hold my bosom for a while?"), whilst there's strong support from Olga Georges-Picot, Harold Gould, James Tolkan and Jessica Harper.
The ending is perfectly pitched, finding the right balance between the farce and the comic pathos, with Woody indulging his influences once again, with that great Tarkovsky-like rumination on wheat (with Allen framing Keaton and Harper in a manner that brings to mind the framing of Liv Ullman and Bibi Anderson in Bergman's Persona) and that final shot that has Woody dancing through the trees with Death... a delightful homage to Bergman's The Seventh Seal. Love and Death is brilliant stuff from beginning to end, filled with great moments of wit (and sight-gags that predate the giddy likes of Airplane and Police Squad), and, is a film that could, quite easily, be considered as Allen's first masterpiece... comedic or otherwise.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe Allen's best comedy,
By A Customer
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)I saw »Love And Death« on telly (too) many years ago, and then it was suddenly shown in our local "cult" cinema. As a big Woody Allen fan, I rushed to see it.
And it was much better than I remembered! 98% comedy - and clearly the best of Allen's early films which were basicly all comedies. Maybe even his best comedy ever.
The parodic element plays a vital role in »Love And Death«. Parody on Russian cultural personalities, on Frenchmen, on religion, on great film makers, etc. Woody Allen has really had a great time and great fun, much of it probably spontaneously, writing this one.
A delight for Woody Allen fans - and a great, great laugh for everyone!
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic comedy from a master of one line comedy epics,
By A Customer
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)I first watched this film aged approx 16 I loved it then and love it now. The line I best remember is when he portrays his brother as a raw meat eating thug and then says to the camera..'Don't get me wrong, I love him like a brother...Just not one of mine.'
I discovered Woody Allen in 'Love and Death' and have never kicked the habit. His appearence puts half of humanity off - to me this makes him even more comedic and his strange appearence in this film adds to the laughs..the most unlikely hero. The DVD collection of Woody Allen films is slowly expanding and because of his timeless and clever wit the older Woody Allen films will always be watched.
For those of you who love his asides and often quiet one-liners - try 'Manhattan Murder Mystery' with Woody, Diane Keaton and Alan Alda. Another Allen classic.
Overall this film gets 5 stars based on the film alone. It is a pity there are no real extras..an interview with Woody or some outakes would be great. Then again, Woody has never really been the revealing type. Read 'The unruly life of Woody Allen' by Marion Meade (2000).
The lack of extras is a bit disconcerting considering how much we pay for DVD in this country..but vat least with Woody Allen the film is worth buying for the sheer pleasure of seeing that strange little man perform.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant satire. Arguably Allen's best pure comedy,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)I'm not surprised this was rumored to be Allen's favorite film. I'd say it's the best of his flat out comedies. All the strengths he was gathering as a filmmaker came together in this brilliant satire of (among other things) 19th century Russian literature, war, epic films about war, Ingmar Bergman, etc. etc. It's very very smart, and very very funny.
An amazing mix of sophisticated intellectual verbal comedy, parody, low and high-brow visual gags (from speeded up film of bopping a character repeatedly over the head with a bottle, to homages to great images from early Russian films) , terrific cinematography, and some real ideas, both political and philosophical.
Diane Keaton is wonderful, and fully comes into her own as Allen's on screen equal partner. And the look of the film shows the deep visual sophistication that would become a hallmark of the next phase of Allen's career; Annie Hall, Manhattan, etc.
With this film Allen completed his journey from brilliant joke teller to brilliant director-writer. It would be his next film, Annie Hall, that would make the world realize he was a world class filmmaker. But you can see the all groundwork laid here, and have a lot of fun in the process.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Allen at his comic best, worth collecting.,
By A Customer
This review is from: Love And Death [VHS] (VHS Tape)Spoof on "War and Peace" with some of the most witty one-liners in one Allen movie. Has to be watched at least twice to catch them all. Keaton in her inimitable "straight-guy" supporting role is at her most funny. Very collectable.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Allen's Russian Philosophising,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)Love And Death is Woody Allen's 1975 film which provides a very funny, although not entirely successful, parody on Russian literature (including Dostoevsky and Tolstoy's War and Peace) - even to the extent of staging mock battle scenes reminiscent of (although, unsurprisingly, not as convincing as) those in Bondarchuk's 1967 film of the Tolstoy novel. Being the Allen film which immediately preceded the Oscar-winning Annie Hall, I regard Love And Death as acting as something of a bridge between Allen's 'early funny ones' (Take The Money And Run, Play It Again Sam, Bananas, Sleeper - albeit there were some moments of philosophising in these early films) and his subsequent, more mature and 'serious' films.
Whilst Love And Death has a very high joke content (almost as high as what is, for me, Allen's funniest out-and-out 'straight comedy', Play It Again Sam) and thus succeeds admirably from a purely comedic standpoint, as a parody of Russian 19th century literature and society it is less convincing. Whilst there are numerous scenes and examples of dialogue where Allen hits the mark (e.g. when confronting the main reasons why the Russians must avoid defeat by the French - 'Do you want all that rich food, heavy sauces and croissants?', 'No!'), much of the film's depiction of this 'alien culture' becomes rather 'clunky', and, at times towards the end, descends into unconvincing farce. I have found this difficulty relating to the convincing portrayal of foreign cultures (albeit in an admittedly comedic setting) to be something of a bugbear with Allen - one that is (to some extent) evident with his later Shadows and Fog, and reaches catastrophic proportions with the later, UK set, films Match Point and, worst of all, Cassandra's Dream.
However, having said all of the above, my four star rating for Love And Death reflects the fact that the plus points of the film largely outweigh the negative ones. Great lines of dialogue abound. Getting to the heart of the film, Allen's character Boris Grushenko asks Sonja (an impressive Diane Keaton) whether she is scared of death, 'Scared is the wrong word; I'm frightened of it', 'Interesting distinction' frowns Boris in reply. And as Boris stares into the distance, lamenting 'Nothingness, non-existence, black emptiness', and when asked by Sonja what he was saying, responds 'I was just planning my future'. There are also hilarious moments where Boris and Sonja are in the middle of some significant action (e.g. attempting to assassinate Napoleon) and then veer off into an extended and convoluted philosophical discussion (rather reminiscent of one of those old film reviews that used to appear -20 years ago - in Sight and Sound) on the meaning of life or the existence of God.
Performance-wise, Allen is Allen and Keaton is typically impressive. Similarly, Jessica Harper in a minor role as Natasha delivers one or two great scenes, including that with Keaton towards the end of the film, where Allen creates a shot of the two actresses' faces at right angles to each other, as a tribute to the shot from Bergman's Persona. Mention should also be made of the excellent James Tolkan in his studied portrayal of Napoleon.
Allen chose an appropriate soundtrack for the film featuring music by Prokofiev, particularly the Lieutenant Kije Suite. This music accompanies a brilliant final scene, where Boris dances down a tree-lined road alongside Death, in the form of a figure clothed in white and brandishing the traditional sickle (a la The Seventh Seal).
In summary, something of a mixed bag, but a very funny (and cinematically interesting) film nevertheless.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten great,
This review is from: Love And Death [VHS] (VHS Tape)Everyone forgets just how good this film actually is. It's one of Woody Allen's best, charming, articulate and the beginning of his transition to tragi-comic drama-the period of his film-making career that I prefer. The best thing about 'Love and Death' is that it has enough slap-stick as well as tenderness to suit all fans. People ought to talk about this one more; an absolute gem.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woody Allen: The Golden Years,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)"Love and Death" truly belongs in the Pantheon of comedy classics. A send-up of every Russian novel that you should have read, but probably didn't, the film, as the name implies, in particular spoofs Tolstoy's "War and Peace." Boris Gruschenko (Allen in Kulak blouse plus his customary horn-rimmed glasses) is hopelessly in love with his cousin Sonja (Diane Keaton) when the Napoleonic Wars intrude on their lives. Between gags, the characters burst into ecstasies of philosophical discourse on the nature of ontology and wheat. The film was shot in Hungary, and the costumes and sets provide a magnificent background for this high-flown nonsense, as does the musical score by Sergei Prokofiev [who might well be spinning in his grave with laughter]. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments even though one has seen the film half-a-dozen times.
Among my favorites is an episode in which Boris' aged parent--a "major loon"--confides that he owns a little plot of land [He keeps it in his pocket.] upon which he is going to build one day, and that he will bequeath it to his son. Allen also pays homage to Ingmar Bergman's "Seventh Seal" when he ends the film in a frenetic pas de deux with a scythe-wielding Death.
Although I always get a kick out of Allen--even in his later, far lighter, fare--in "Love and Death" he has approached, if not reached, the zenith of his creative powers--his golden age, as it were, in which his cinematic productions cast a shadow so long that it adumbrates his later works.
5.0 out of 5 stars A cocktail of delights,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)For me this film is a dream come true: I love Napoleonic history (and have an especial fascination with the 1812 campaign in Russia), and of course Russian literature and music offers vast riches for Allen to both mock and do homage to, and then there's Woody Allen himself - my favourite film maker - indulging in a rather silly take on all this stuff.
Released in '75, it marks the end of his run of early 'funny' films, after which he enters upon the decade that I see as the apex of his career, between Annie Hall and Radio Days. Love and Death certainly isn't his best film, indeed, it's fairly dumb in places, as Allen movies go. But nevertheless, it's wonderful: there's no one else makes films quite like Woody Allen.
Despite the often slapstick and farcical broad comedy, there are poignant moments, such as the opening titles, where the pure beauty of landscape and music are intoxicating. And Allen and Keaton are brilliant, deadpanning a very Noo Yoik type convoluted love-affair into a cod-Dostoyevskian setting. There are some fabulous exchanges between Keaton's philosophical Sonja and Allen's wise-cracking Boris.
As ever with Allen there's plenty of reference to such themes as existential angst and sex and, of course, as befits the title, love and death. I love when he seduces the stunning cocquette Countess Alexandrovna, who tells him "You are the greatest lover I've ever had." To which he replies, "Well, I practice a lot when I'm alone." Inevitably, it being Russia in the C19th, he then has to fight a duel with Countess Alexandrovna's husband Anton.
Eventually, having become embroiled in the wars against his will, he finally gets together with Sonja, only to then be dragged into a plot to kill Boney. In case you haven't seen it, I'll leave it there. But, ah me... as I said above, there's no-one else makes films like Allen! So, whilst not his best, it's still a five star affair, especially compared to vast tidal waves of brainless and humourless dross the Hollywood movie empire pumps out of the US these days.
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny.,
This review is from: Love And Death [DVD] (DVD)Woody is very funny and even though this was given as a present it is one that I would have liked for myself.
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Love And Death [DVD] by Woody Allen (DVD - 2001)