Love and Death

Director: Woody Allen
Year Released: 1975
Rating: 3.5

I have a rule for comedies: if I laugh, you win, and if I feel like the plot isn't pathetically thrown together at the last minute (Bananas), I'm even more receptive. This is one of Allen's lesser known, but still intriguing movies: a take on Russian novels that includes references to everybody from Tolstoy to Bergman (The Seventh Seal) to Socrates to Kant and his moral imperative. Allen is the ultimate intellectual comedian, and his deft handling of all these sources is unparalleled (Dennis Miller tries, but he sometimes comes off as being gratuitous and fake); he also remains one of the most compulsively watch-able cinematic creations there ever existed, right up with the Little Tramp and Keaton's outsider/sad-sack. The plot, while silly (wars are raging, Allen's a bumbling new soldier-recruit; Diane Keaton - Allen's Myrna Loy - concocts a plan to kill Napoleon and save Mother Russia), holds together the various bits - some fail, some thrive - and by the end you're satisfied in a comfortable way, unlike watching Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey, who you laugh at but feel guilty and foolish in doing so.