I don’t think there’s anything about this film that amazed or surprised me. I’m not even sure it really impressed me. I don’t think I have much praise for this movie that I haven’t given to other Woody Allen movies, and I’m not sure that it really stands out among his other works. So why give it such a high review? Because it feels like coming home.
When I watched Love and Death about a month ago, it had been about a year since I watched a movie that Woody Allen directed, and that particular film was rather disappointing. This summer, however, I watched Antz, which reminded me just how much I love Woody Allen’s cinematic doppelganger (whom I shall refer to as “Movie Woody” henceforth). This film lets Movie Woody do his thing and run wild the whole time – he does his Groucho Marx shtick, his pessimistic paranoia, and his philosophical/theological pontificating. I think Movie Woody is a better representative of who I am inside than it is of the real Woody Allen, so watching this film was like finding myself again.
The homages to the Marx Brothers were absolutely perfect, and the nods to Bergman felt just right for establishing the dark and bizarre tone of the film (and showing how Woody can take the works of art that receive the utmost praise from intellectuals and still find the stupid absurdity in them). Woody’s witty quotes paired with the hilarious physical performances from Woody and Diane made for some great laughs. Woody’s response to the old phrase “warms the cockles of my heart” made me explode with laughter. I felt giddy like a child again, all because I was with my good old friend Woody, who was doing what he does best: turning brutal (and nonchalant) honesty about how miserable and pathetic life is into a special kind of joy. Love and Death is beautifully depressing and painfully euphoric.