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REVIVING WOODY ALLEN'S 'A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY'

Woody's orb in MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY Year: 1982
Upon release, Woody Allen's multi homage (from Shakespeare to Bergman) A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY was a case of The Emperor's New Clothes: For critics who adored Allen's work, ranging from the joke-a-second "older, funny ones" like BANANAS to more autobiographical, intellectually anti pseudo-intellectual comedies like MANHATTAN, it seemed Allen could do practically no wrong...

Until this quirky and fun, jovial countryside-romping celebration of nature and sunlight that, after (a recommended) multiple viewings, alters from The Emperor being naked to his clothes clashing with the otherwise signature wardrobe. And there are similar traits of the adventurous slapstick of SLEEPER, where he flies using a futuristic contraption and here, set during the 1900's, Woody's stock broker/inventor Andrew hits the skies again on a bicycle helicopter (after failing with a pair of Icarus wings) that, within the first five minutes, puts the viewer off-balance with a combination of science-fiction and the extremely Earthy, down-home setting...

Kate McGregor-Stewart with Tony Roberts
Before this are a few character-introduced interior scenes: one during a sexed-up checkup at a doctor's office, with several punchlines intact and his familiar directorial device: A visible character speaking to an unseen one, and the latter moves into the shot where the dialogue continues, together, finishing the conversation...

Leading to the forest backyard/playground surrounding Andrew's country home, where he lives with a seemingly perfect yet mysteriously sexless wife, Adrian (Mary Steenburgen)...

But he loves i.e. lusts after the girl-that-got-away Mia Farrow, in her first of many Woody Allen films. She's a captivating, dreamlike ingenue (and like Diane Keaton in LOVE AND DEATH, a classy former nymphomaniac) named Ariel, engaged to who's as close as we get to an antagonist in Jose Ferrer's aged, pompous, pretentious yet also affable and dull-charming scientist/professor Leopold, who loathes any thought of the supernatural and has the right to be paranoid as that randy doctor, played by Tony Roberts, becomes instantly smitten with Ariel to the point of attempted suicide...

Didn't initially but has a nice cult following
Which makes Woody's character funny without the usual frustrated verbal daggers aimed at those who annoy or provide a comparative, competitive bulwark against his awkwardly contented rhythm and yet, at the same time, he is frustrated and sarcastic, but the lack of pointed insults give the impression that most of his one-liners miss the target when, in reality... other than delicious conversations between himself and Roberts... there aren't any real targets to begin with...

Also, the idyllic time-period gives this ironically titled SEX COMEDY a built-in innocence countering the soap operatic sexual scheming, which is more jovially risque than bluntly realistic, underlined by Julie Hagerty as Max's sweet yet promiscuous nurse: as if young MANHATTAN ingenue Mariel Hemingway returned from abroad sexually liberated: Almost too much a good thing to Woody's multiple movie sidekick/straight man Roberts, for the first time given a role equal to his director, and bearing the first name, Max, which was he and Woody's nickname for each other in ANNIE HALL...

Ringer Jose Ferrer enjoys a break in the woodsy haven
Meanwhile, set against the lush wilderness setting, any attempted act of fornication is heightened for simply existing in that period and place, and becomes a sort of "punchline without delivery" or need of one at all...

At the same time, the "modern themes" thrust into this delicate era feels more embraced and celebrated than belittled and parodied...

The proverbial snake in Eden has a comfortable smile instead of a knowing grin: a subtle, uncomplicated phantom within the great outdoors visually celebrated by Gordon Willis's gorgeous cinematography (unlike his usual GODFATHER dark, shadowy style, which gave him the industry moniker "Prince of Darkness" which is the polar opposite here): providing several nature/creature montage sequences as existentialism goes and flows with, and not against, the surrounding countryside...

An age of innocence handled with sinful playfulness Rates: ****
So with few of the caustic (and often repetitious) "love is luck" philosophical rants, expected and even anticipated in Woody Allen's work, there lacks the usual edge and spontaneity of what both fans and critics had expected...

But from the opening scene within Jose Ferrer as Leopold's stuffy classroom (the blackboard behind resembling a dead "empty void" within the "bleak cosmos") as his students look trapped and spooked, like deer-in-headlights...

Then to the picturesque, jovial yet frantic exterior (also influenced by Jean Renoir's RULES OF THE GAME), where six polar opposites roam and romp: This MIDSUMMER'S NIGHT SEX COMEDY reflects Woody Allen's new and unique form of whimsical yet palpable and literally magical canvas (the first backed by Orion Pictures after HEAVEN'S GATE destroyed United Artists) that puts emphasis more on the characters than their dialogue.

Adam Redfield quick interview on working under Woody Allen
ADAM REDFIELD (on Leopold's classroom scene): "Woody Allen was very nice to me. I was 21 years old and very nervous. Same with Jose Ferrer... 

"He knew my father [William Redfield, who played the stuffy Mr. Harding in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST; the sub pilot in FANTASTIC VOYAGE; and Charles Bronson's cynical workmate in DEATH WISH) so we chatted a bit about that. His son [Miguel Ferrer] is in the scene also. As for my backstory or how I prepared. I honestly do not remember. We shot in a classroom up at Columbia U. I was doing stage work at the Guthrie in Minneapolis at the time and flew in for the shoot. Thanks for reaching out to me."
Adam Redfield as a student is a hybrid of future Woody Allen regulars John Cusack and Jeff Daniels
"Svmer is icumen in Lhude sing cuccu; Groweþ sed and bloweþ med and springþ þe wde nu Sing cuccu!" i.e. "Sing Cuckoo!"
For the next 30-plus photos, let's see the magical lightness from cinematographer Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis ("Goodnight, Ned")
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Gorgeous natural cinematography montage of A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy by Gordon Willis
Where Gordon Willis's nature montage ends as camera pulls back to reveal bearer of final captured beauty
There's usually one veteran actor Woody grew up watching and it's probably Jose Ferrer
Mia Farrow as the dreamlike Ariel with blunt boorish but passive nightmare Leopold (Jose Ferrer)
Gordon Willis jazzes the locale with the kind of glorious aesthetic he's not used to w/ Godfather type films
Like Woody's Boris in Love & Death, Tony Roberts adores his trusty butterfly net
Woody Allen regular Tony Roberts serenading first-time Woody Allen actress Mia Farrow
Jose Ferrer in Woody Allen's A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy
Julie Hagerty w/ lustful Jose Ferrer in the kind of dark Godfather lighting Gordon Willis is used to
Mary Steenburgen and Mia Farrow looking lovely in the long day
Woody Allen and girlfriend/collaborator Mia Farrow began here
Playing ball with Max (Tony Roberts)
Woody Allen attempts fishing on film in the second lovely Gordon Willis-shot montage
Another creative device captures Woody Allen and Julie Hagerty
Tony Roberts as Maxwell curiously peaking through
Actually a representation of Tony Roberts and Mary Steenburgen, not his obsession Mia Farrow
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