“Do You Think God Wears Glasses?” Love and Death (1975)
“Not with those frames.”
Dance for me, Woody, DANCE! Squat down low and kick your way through the meaning of life for me! Thrill me with you dangerous Dostoevsky references and displays of cowardice under fire!
Please, for the love of all that is good and pure, find out if there really is a God so that I don’t have to. If you could also do the usual and get your leg over with some pretty women in the process, well, that would be just dandy.
Ah, Love and Death. Woody Allen’s satire of the great and tragic Russian epics. I would say I know them well, and with a job like mine, I should – but lets face it, I’ve struggled to finish any one of those massive bastards. I think I did The Double, although when compared to the usual doorstop tomes, ‘tis but a tale on the back of a postage stamp. It’s not that I don’t dig all the bleakness, gloom, tragedy and overwhelming sense of depression…they’re universal, timeless themes - but I can’t for the life of me form a connection to the period. Or the style, and life is too short, and why the hell am I justifying this when I don’t need to?
Anyway, back to Love and Death. In which the untimely demise of a local serf brings young Woody I mean Boris to the startling realisation that death awaits us all. But why? Is there a greater plan? Is there an afterlife? Is this all there really is? Dreams and visions of Death are quickly followed by Boris questioning the existence of God. Followed by the eternal quest to understand the opposite sex – well, mainly his rather attractive cousin – all of which is rounded off by a good dose of anxiety and self deprecation. Fuck yes. Vintage Allen.
No time to meander through these thoughts for long though, as it’s off to the front line of battle for pacifist Boris. He can’t shoot a gun, he was meant to write poetry! What the hell are these people thinking? Boris needs spiritual fulfilment and answers, not the throat-ripping yell of a possible time-traveller drill sergeant: “God damn you, YOU LOVE RUSSIA, DON’T YOU?”
Well, Boris loves the women of Russia more, and becomes – as always in a Woody Allen classic – an object of lust and desire for the ladies. He can charm the knickers off anything, that diminutive, neurotic little love God…Jesus, Allen, your sensual fan-play is something that once seen, can never be forgotten.
Boris finally marries his cousin (Diane Keaton) with the relationship starting off as entirely loveless on her part. Eventually she falls for his magnetic allure, and with a beautiful wife and idyllic life in the country, you’d think he would be happy, but it appears that Boris is contemplating suicide. The cure of ‘blonde 12 year-old girls’ suggested by a local priest is not even tried. A wise move for all concerned. Embarking upon an ill-advised attempt on the life of Napoleon can only make matters worse though, surely? Or better if you’re looking for even more great dialogue, visual gags and some riffing in the key of Ingmar Bergman.
Yeah. This version of Death seems nicer than the usual standard, and if he takes you dancing through the trees to some Prokofiev when the time comes, then I’m down with that. God or no God.
Love and Death remains one of my favourite moments in Woody Allen history. It is smart, ridiculously well written and delivers the comedy greatness. It stands up to repeated viewings, and is infinitely quotable. Even though I admit that my real-life audience is rather limited. Restricted to one person laughing while the tumbleweeds roll.
I love you Woody. I really do. If we leave out the whole marrying the adopted daughter thing, you are scaling the death-trap heights of my ‘fucking genius’ list. I know it should be all about your way with words, your comebacks, your timing, that physical slapstick comedy you can excel in…but sometimes, I only have to look at you to start laughing. Seriously. I paused the you tube clip above at the wrong moment and nearly pissed myself. 2 minutes 54 seconds in.