Greatest Directors: Woody Allen; Part 9: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)

AMidsummerAfter a long hiatus of avoiding Woody Allen films and allowing myself to refresh, I finally bring you part 9 of my series! Today we’ll be looking at Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982, quite a mouthful, I know). It’s one of his more unknown films, simply due to the audience backlash he received due to Stardust Memories (1980). It’s a dramatic comedy, notably similar to Love and Death or Interiors. It’s somewhat a period piece, though it doesn’t state specifically when it occurs. In it’s context, it’s very much a full-on homage to Ingmar Bergman, in particular his first acclaimed film Smiles of a Summer Night (1955). Not a parody, so much as a re-envisioning as I understand it. I expected something much more satirical, and comedy-based in my initial research of the film, immediately likening it to the style of his earlier films.

The story boils down to a couple who live in the countryside, who invite two more couples to join them for a romantic weekend. Chaos ensues as something about the isolated and romantic countryside instills an element of romance and lust into the mood. Andrew and Adrian (Woody Allen, and Mary Steenburgen) star as the hosts, a married couple who are having trouble consummating their love. Seductive doctor Maxwell (Tony Roberts) and lusty young nurse Dulcy (Julie Hagerty) join them in addition to Leopold the unbearable older philosopher (Jose Ferrer) and his soon to be wife Ariel (Mia Farrow). Maxwell declares his love for Ariel shortly after meeting her, Andrew feels the same, while Dulcy is enamored by the older Leopold, as Adrian struggles to face her sexual problems.

A flying bicycle, that is.

A flying bicycle, that is.

The film unlike Allen’s earlier pieces is much more focused on the genre and it’s elements as opposed to the comedy element. The comedy mainly manifests in a few scenes, other than tongue in cheek gags within the script. However, it’s very light-hearted and natural in tones and is very aesthetically pleasant. The countryside, the lush forest and natural lighting is to be enjoyed and suits the whole questioning of life that occurs within it. In Danish fashion in homage to Ingmar Bergman, the film feels very naturalistic. There’s basically no music bar the title sequence, and it doesn’t try to force or alter our perspective with particular shots. As a result, along with Woody’s very whimsical and satirical writing you get a very relaxing, fresh, and original cinematic experience. 

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy is a seemingly underrated film. I found it hard to find any in-depth criticism of it, than a simple number system. It’s 6.6 on IMDB? If that means anything, which I’m not particularly sure it does. I’ll conclude with some facts and predictions. The role of Ariel was written for Allen’s long-time collaborator Diane Keaton. Keaton was busy promoting the film Reds at the time, and could not act. As a result, Allen cast model Mia Farrow who Allen would marry. Their relationship would end in controversy but we’ll cross that bridge when we do. Farrow actually received a Razzie for her performance in this. I’ve literally no idea why. I mean sure she wasn’t fantastic or as good as Keaton would be, but a Razzie? Who knows. I liked the film (Not typing it’s name again) as it’s really quite original (albeit based on another film) and just quite musing. Until next time, film fans. Follow me @Sams_Reel_Views. 

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