BR: Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, A (1982)

October 1, 2015 | By


MidsummerNightsSexComedy_BRFilm: Excellent

Transfer:  Excellent

Extras: Good

Label:  Twilight Time

Region: All

Released:  August 11, 2015

Genre:  Comedy

Synopsis: A trio of couples gather at a remote household and find past obsessions and fears of future relations collide over one night in this loose amalgam of William Shakespeare, Felix Mendelssohn, and Ingmar Bergman.

Special Features: Isolated Mono Music & Effects Track / Theatrical Trailer / 8-page colour booklet with liner notes by film historian Julie Kirgo / Limited to 3000 Copies  Available exclusively from Screen Archives Entertainment.





From William Shakespeare’s classic play A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream of fairy dusted lovers true and accidental, errors in judgment, and wacky hijinks between various couples, to Ingmar Bergman’s variation Smiles of a Summer Night (1955) in which said hijinks are isolated to one extended night, we have another extrapolation from Woody Allen that invokes bits of the aforementioned, but gels into a peculiar work that feels like seventies indie film weaving together the look of an artsy Bergman tale with doses of moderate absurdism typical of American auteur Allen – an unusual amalgam, given Allen’s film stems from 1982.

Although set in somewhere in a soft & fuzzy Edwardian era, the film’s seventies feel is perhaps tied to the lengthy and sometimes elaborate takes in which Allen’s characters weigh all kinds of literary, marital, sexual quandaries via sophisticated exchanges that are occasionally brought down to Earth with contemporary cracks or Allen’s elaborate visual gags.

Allen’s Andrew is a financial whiz who invents gizmos that have become increasingly sophisticated as his sex life is locked in Pause mode, and doubts of emotional fidelity are tested when old flame Ariel (Mia Farrow) arrives for a weekend stay on the eve of her nuptials to very older, very verbose Leopold (Jose Ferrer). Andrew’s best friend Maxwell (Tony Roberts) comes for a visit with his latest fling from the medical clinic, pretty Dulcy (Julie Haggerty), but Maxwell soon falls for Ariel, as does Andrew, igniting jealousy and somewhat murderous rage in Leopold , while Andrew’s wife Adrian (Mary Steenburgen) enjoys some choice sexual consults from Dulcy.

Forest meetings are foiled by chance encounters and discussions, and Allen steers what would’ve been a predictable comedy of errors, manners, and romance into regular pauses where characters discuss and process sudden events that pepper a very long night for one and all.

Gordon Willis’ stunning cinematography gives the film a stately, Bergmanesque veneer, especially the magic hour shots and scenes where sexually starved characters stroll along the forest brook, and yet Allen injects absurdism via a flying machine that actually works (in spite of its technical rickety design), and periodic bumbling.

Bawdy behaviour is often comically clumsy (Andrew and Adrian’s kitchen escapades are delightfully ridiculous), and there’s a moment when a search for Leopold invokes a bit of Bugs Bunny, with characters exclaiming ‘Leopold!’ much like orchestra musicians reacting to Bugs Bunny approaching the podium dressed as Leopold Stokowski in the classic cartoon “Long-Haired Hare.”

The use of various Mendelssohn extracts gives the film both verve and a layer of cheekiness, often punctuating the movements and meaty dialogue exchanges of the troubled, twisted, and rather philosophical characters, while an allusion to Shakespeare’s forest fairies comes in the form of a self-made ‘magic orb’ (perhaps an allusion to the ‘magic lantern’ which launched Bergman’s fixation on moving images as a child) that either prophesizes, harkens back, or gives a present day glimpse at character unions by snapping to life at key junctures. Images are projected (quite brightly) on the forest canvas at night, and in spite of overheating and sparking to a near-terminal state, the slitted orb still functions, providing a final capper as Allen’s drama wraps up in a manner where everyone is pretty much in a better place.

Arguably the real star (and surprise) is Jose Ferrer, relishing his dialogue and literary-styled (and pompous) Leopold when much of his work around 1982 was relegated to episodic shows, TV movies, small supporting feature film roles, or hasty exploitation fodder such as Bloody Birthday (1981). Leopold is vibrant, packed with arrogance, and very sexual – he’s clearly delighted he’s snagged a young hottie (Ariel) – and he’s the anchor around which Allen’s couples gather, splinter, and contemplate taboo behaviour.

Twilight Time’s Blu-ray features a lovely transfer that brings out Willis’ marvelous images, and there’s an isolated mono music & effects track of the Mendelssohn music selections that make up the film’s score.

A snappily edited trailer highlights the assorted conflicts and provocative characters, and Julie Kirgo’s liner notes pays homage to a film that reportedly earned Mia Farrow a Golden Razzie Nomination, which seems bizarre given she fits Ariel to a T.

Other Woody Allen films released on Blu by TT include Love and Death (1975), Broadway Danny Rose (1983), The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985), Radio Days (1987), and Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), and the Allen starring in the Red Menace satire The Front (1976).



© 2015 Mark R. Hasan



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Category: Blu-ray / DVD Film Review

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