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December 20, 2015

Movie Review: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)

Directed by Woody Allen

Movie Review by Greg Goodsell

It is the Edwardian Age. Academic Leopold (Jose Ferrer), a proponent of secular humanism just as tedious as any religious fundamentalist, is off to the countryside to marry the far younger Ariel (Mia Farrow). They are set to reconnoiter at Leopold’s cousin Adrian’s (Mary Steenburgen) country manor for a weekend of fun before the nuptials. Adrian’s husband Andrew (Woody Allen) is a wealthy Wall Street investor and part-time inventor who terrorizes the local wildlife with his flying bicycles. Thrown into the mix is randy Doctor Maxwell (Tony Roberts) and naughty nurse Dulcy (Julie Hagerty). The sultry summer air weaves its spell on the sextet. It appears that Andrew and Arial are going through marital troubles, inflamed by the fact that Ariel and Andrew are former lovers. Everyone wonder aloud if it’s appropriate that Arial and Leopold are set to be wed, the differences in their ages at least three decades! Maxwell, while trying to pitch and woo to everything in a skirt (“He’s never lost a patient,” Andre declares. “Made a few of them pregnant, yes!”) however, befalls a series of comic injuries.

Things come to a head when Andrew presents his latest invention, a “Spirit ball,” a device that can reach into the unseen world to see the past, present and future. The resolutely non-metaphysical group is treated to a ghostly vision of a couple meeting clandestinely at the nearby lake. There is a death – but the film has a happy ending regardless.

If you like Woody Allen, you will like this film. As Julie Kirgo notes in her liner notes for this Twilight Time release, limited to 3,000 copies – snatch it up, now! – This light, romantic comedy shot in color by the legendary Gordon Willis, came on the heels of his sere, existential black-and-white trilogy Interiors (1978), Manhattan (1979) and Stardust Memories (1980). A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, remaining as light as soufflĂ©, still manages to seriously address key parts of the human condition: love, life,death and the purpose of existence. “What we have here, in other words, is a typical Woody Allen narrative – and never mind that A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy is a period film, unfolding far from the filmmaker’s usual urban enclave. The neuroses remain the same," she notes.
The message seemingly behind A Midsummer’s Night Sex cComedy is that love and romance cannot be explained by the rational. Ferrer comes in and makes gloomy statements of the assuredness of the material world, but is ultimately shown to be a pompous old goof, undone by his lack of faith in the immaterial. When we declare that there is “no such thing as fairies” – a key component of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” we are arguing from a position of ignorance. It’s merely because no fairies have come from behind their toadstools to introduce themselves to us.

This release is noticeably light on extras. There is the film’s original theatrical trailer as well as a bit involving MGM’s 90th Anniversary. Ye reviewer admits that he could never cotton up to Allen – in one of the few instances that me and horror novelist Stephen King agreed upon, he recalled putting off a trip to the theater lobby’s drinking fountain halfway through Stardust Memories in order to have something to look forward to – but if this is your cup of tea, dive in!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, his first light comedy IMO, which has hurt his batting average (I basically hated Scoop), but it's an ok flick to me. One tiny note, did Kirgo say Interiors was in B&W? That's incorrect, she must've been thinking of Zelig (which was an 80-minute one-joke film, but I liked it a lot), which I believe came out right after AMNSC. Fine review, Mr. G., as usual! ;-)