thatcow

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There are two Woody Allens, the early stand-up guy who made movies to make people laugh, and the grown-up guy who wants to explore serious themes and be a serious filmmaker. Everything... is from that early period, a collection vignettes on, well, a common theme. The title is borrowed from a popular book around the time the movie was made, and movie purports to be answering questions that are posed from that same book. In fact, it's just doing a send up on the topics rather than being any kind of, say, manual on the subject.

Our first centers on a court jester (Allen, doing his stand-up schtick) making a play for the queen. Allen plays it very self-aware, making reference to the audience, and deliberately mixing up anachronistic jargon with the thees and forsooths of the time. The segment is clearly warming up the audience for the slightly more serious and paced bits to come.

Next, is the involvement of a doctor (Gene Wilder) and a sheep. Wilder is good about being serious in a farcical situation, but despite an imaginative attempt, the segment feels somewhat rote.

Moving along, Allen plays what seems to be a new character for him, an chain smoking Italian man who has just been married. He exudes a certain laid-back confidence and coolness until he finds his new wife is only turned on by doing it in public. He gets advice in a succession of emotionally detached scenes from various men who are all similarly laid-back and cool, though Allen's veneer is definitely wavering. The most interesting aspect is this segment is done in Italian with subtitles (I think I may have heard some french too) - and I'm no judge, but Allen's delivery sounds very well done. Like the other stories here, this one is similarly not deep, but it is encouraging to know that Woody can play outside his usual boundaries - but why he doesn't bother is beyond me. Maybe he just likes to play close to himself on screen.

Then there's a bit with a transvestite who sneaks upstairs at someone's house to do his thing, ends up escaping through the window, and gets discovered after his/her purse gets stolen. It's done well enough, but again, we're not getting very deep here.

My favorite part is the segment of the old fifties television show, "What's my perversion?" where a celebrity panel tries to guess the perversion of the guests on the show. Just hearing Regis Philbin say "whips and chains" is worth the price of admission. They really should make a show like this - it would probably be successful, though probably would only see the light of day on cable.

And then there's a tale of a mad scientist sexual researcher. Woody, in the role of an earnest young researcher, and a young female reporter, arrive one night, and things get out of hand. Somehow they end up getting chased by a gigantic breast. The joke at the end of this one is a pretty obvious one.

Finally, we see the human body treated like an anthropically designed factory meets star trek episode, with various functions from the brain to sperm being acted out by people in white outfits within industrial surroundings. This one is worked out pretty good, but the pacing is slow.

This movie is more of a particularly good episode of Saturday Night Live (which may not be a recommendation for many of you) than a chunk of film. It's amusing, doesn't have to be watched all at once, and isn't really bad or anything. It just isn't offering much depth or more than sophmoric comments on sexuality. Perhaps the movie's greatest appeal is in understanding the evolution of Woody Allen as a writer and director.

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