You know, I think I might be getting a bit sick of talking about Woody Allen so much. Oh well, that’s what you get when you marathon so many movies in a row. But really, artistically the guy is something special. I can’t really think of anybody else besides Allen who would think it’d be a great idea to make a comedic period picture set it in 19th century Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, and make satirizing Russian literature the core premise of the movie. But it’s that type of originality in film making that makes Allen’s movies so fun to watch, he is not afraid to do unconventional movies that might not do well at the box office, and what would most definitely be deemed too risky by big studios. And to his credit, Allen not only manages to pull it off here once again, but he also makes it incredibly entertaining even to people, such as myself, who are not very well read when it comes to Russian literature. Obviously it probably would have been funnier if you recognized the direct references, but it doesn’t hinder the experience in the slightest.
One thought that really has been bouncing around my head since watching the movie is that this must have been pretty expensive production for Allen, considering how many period outfits had to be made, from the uniforms to the party gowns for the ladies, and let’s not forget to mention the big military battle scene between the French and Russians. Such a large amount of troops fighting each other, while cannons booming, etc. Must have been a lot of work to get it all together. You normally would not expect to see such things in a simple comedy. And all the military stuff is just one scene in the middle of the movie, instead of a big climactic ending. Amidst of all this war, we also get to poke some fun at Diane Keaton’s character who is foolishly romantic to a fault, and has thrown herself to a loveless marriage after being rejected by the man she loves, Allen’s brother. This eventually leads to a very funny scene where her husband is at his death bed after a duel defending her honor from vile gossip of adultery, and it’s immediately afterwards revealed that she has slept with every man in the room, including the orthodox priest.
Later we get more funny shenanigans featuring Keaton when we get to the final major subplot of the movie where Allen and Keaton, now as a married couple, set fort (well, Keaton does, Allen just gets dragged along) to attempt to assassinate Napoleon. The pair are absolute comedy gold together from this point further, as proven by the delightful slapstick routine where Keaton gets repeatedly hit on the head with a bottle when they try and don’t succeed in knocking out the Spanish aristocrat whose identity they plan to steal. The fun continues as the two of them reach Napoleon’s palace, now pretending to be aristocrats without really knowing anything about the people they are impersonating. When Keaton starts giving pronunciation instruction to how to say her name Juanita properly, it cracks me up every time. And of course, as expected, all this chaos soon leads to their plan going horribly wrong and we end the movie with dead Allen dancing down a path with Death, which in a way is a poetic reference to the title of the movie itself. He did it all for love, and in the end it got him death. Love and Death.