Love and Death (1975)
Directed by Woody Allen (x8)
Starring Woody Allen (x6), Diane Keaton (x2), James Tolkan (x4), Jessica Harper, Harold Gould, Olga Georges-Picot, Beth Porter, Zvee Scooler, Aubrey Morris, Tony Jay, Howard Vernon
In the next short stretch, there’s going to be a ton of Woody Allen movies, and I apologize. As I’ve stated many times on this list, yes, I’ve got some reservations about Woody, but you’ve gotta realize how madly I loved this guy’s movies for most of my life. My greater concern as far as the list goes is how many of his films seemed to land in this general area. In the next month there are fully four films, including this one. That may seem like a lot, but going back to lists from years prior, this more represents a sliding of his films than some dominated bunching. He’s only got one movie in the top 85. It’s a 1992 situation all over again! Lots of films, not a ton populating the top rungs of the evaluation!
Love and Death has long been one of my favorites – it gets kinda lost in talking about Woody’s movies because it was the last of his absurdist hyper-comedies pre-Annie Hall, and doesn’t have as iconic a setting as, say, Sleeper. It was also the last movie he’d film outside New York and the area for twenty years – and I’m pretty sure the only movie he shot in Hungary. A few of his films going forward had flashbacks, and a rarer few time travel, but I’m also confident in saying this is his only film set in the early 19th century. It often plays like a Chaplin-esque war satire, a la The Great Dictator, with some Marx Brothers elements thrown in as well, never mind numerous references to Russian literature and cinema. Somehow, all that combined with zany Allen sex jokes makes for a pretty great film.
The real standout performance in the movie – as solid as Woody is playing Woody and James Tolkan’s terrifically funny Napoleon – is Diane Keaton, up to this point doing largely reactionary work in Allen films like Sleeper and Play it Again, Sam. Here, Keaton’s Sonja gets a lot of solid jokes and character bits to play, especially in her scenes away from Allen’s Boris. She’d win an Oscar for her next collaboration with Woody, but that ball started rolling here.
But yeah, this is the eighth Woody Allen film to make the list – in the end, he’ll be one of the very rare directors to occupy over 3% of this list. But that doesn’t sound like much, right? Only 3%! If the sheer volume of his films in the next month is off-putting to you, hell, just skip those films. Shit, skip this whole enterprise – I’m frankly amazed you made it this far. Imagine my predicament when each new film of his appears on the list – I’ve gotta try to come up with new Woody Allen things to talk about! It’s been a harrowing experience with a filmmaker I love but my wife now adamantly refuses to watch. That’s household strife, folks! I had a Manhattan poster hanging in the apartment for a decade, and made the decision to take that thing down lest the wife relegate me to the couch for eternity. Couldn’t have it!
#304 Take the Money and Run, #168 Sleeper, Love and Death, #349 Broadway Danny Rose, #203 The Purple Rose of Cairo, #180 Hannah and Her Sisters, #144 Bullets Over Broadway, and #320 Match Point, and Woody does not act in those last three (but plus appearing in #270 The Front), making him the only Eight-Timer director and the 13th Six-Timer acting. I am more surprised to find James Tolkan joining the Four-Timers today – besides his seminal work as Principal Strickland in the Back to the Future movies I couldn’t have distinctly told you where he’d land on this list before we started. #344 BTTF Part II, #193 They Might Be Giants, and #196 Dick Tracy precede us today! Spotlight!