85 minutes| U.S.A.| 1975| Colour| 35mm

‘To love is to suffer,’ says Diane Keaton’s soulful Sonia in this comedy of 1812 Russia. Woody Allen’s Boris agrees, but plans to drown his sorrows by assassinating Napoleon. The humour is given a touch of class by travesties of Tolstoy and parodies of Eisenstein, but laughter cannot hide Allen’s philosophical pessimism (‘if God exists, He is an underachiever’), nor his growing visual mastery.

Allen: ‘I got a sudden wish to do a Russian thing, with a lightly philosophical theme, so I wrote Love and Death. I knew I would have a good time in that whole philosophical world. Penelope Gilliatt, reviewing the movie, wrote that ‘we’re not in the world of Russia here, we’re in the world of Russian literature.’ And that’s really what it is. It’s almost literary parody. So with Love and Death I surprised everybody, because they all expected another contemporary New York film.’

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