Woody Allen, Diane Keaton
Directed by: Woody Allen
Edition Details:
Region 2 encoding (Europe, Middle East & Japan only), PAL


"We prefer your earlier funny films" an alien from outer space famously told Woody Allen in his 1980 movie Stardust Memories.

Lots of people feel this way. People who know his later more cerebral efforts would be surprised by Allen's earliest movies such as Bananas (1971), Take the Money and Run (1969) and Love and Death (1975). These movies rely a lot on sight gags, one-liners and pure slapstick.

Slapstick? That's right. Take as example this movie, Sleeper (made in 1973), which even has Allen falling on a banana peel in one scene! Taking a his cue from the likes of Laurel & Hardy, Charlie Chaplin and other comedy artists of the silent age of cinema, Allen has made a movie that would surprise cinema-goers who only know him from his angsty intellectual persona in movies like Crimes and Misdemeanours (1989) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986).

In fact one particular scene of Allen impersonating a domestic robot counts as one of the funniest examples of physical humour seen in cinema and can be compared to anything ever done by the likes of Harold Lloyd and Charlie Chaplin.

THE DISC: I suppose that Stanley Kubrick and Woody Allen movies are pretty much pointless on DVD. Don't take me wrong: I am a fervent fan of both filmmakers, but few of their movies have any of the features that make DVD such a great medium.

You might as well own their movies on videotape because on DVD they have few special features beyond the normal (namely scene access, other language tracks and subtitles and usually a trailer). Forget about any additional material such as audio commentaries, publicity material, making of features and the like. Since both Allen and Kubrick believe that such material would distract from the movies themselves, which should stand on their own, they have been left off most DVD versions of their movies.

To worsen things both of them were/are such control freaks that most of their movies are filmed in 1.85:1 (as opposed to 2.35:1 Widescreen) and their soundtracks are usually in Mono and not Stereo. With the advent of home video and the screening of movies on television in Pan&Scan Kubrick decided after 2001: A Space Odyssey all his movies would be filmed like this.  The 1.85:1 aspect ratio transfers better to Pan&Scan video - in English: not too much of the picture's sides are lopped off to make the image fit your whole TV screen.

Mono means that sound effects and dialogue won't come out the wrong speakers in cinemas. And so forth. (Kubrick was such a big control freak that he apparently once visited a venue where A Clockwork Orange would be shown and insisted that the owner remove the front three rows of seats because they were too close to the screen!)

All of Woody Allen's movies are filmed in 1.85:1, with the notable exception of Manhattan (his 1979 follow-up to Annie Hall) that was filmed in 2.35:1 in gorgeous Black & White by Gordon Willis, the photographer of The Godfather. (Tellingly, this movie's soundtrack was also in Mono.)

OK, some bits in Sleeper can very irritating.
There - I've said it - that is quite a confession for a big Woody Allen fan such as myself to make. Sleeper isn't Allen's best or funniest, but is still laugh-out funny and Allen fans would definitely want it despite the disc's lack of features and extras.

RECOMMENDATION: Buy it if you're an Allen fan. Otherwise, check out Annie Hall or Love & Death instead.



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