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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: Sept 20: Sleeper


Sept 20: Sleeper

"A nerdish store owner is revived out of cryostasis into a future world to fight an oppressive government."
Directed by: Woody Allen, Rated: PG, 89 minutes

I have a confession to make. I haven't really seen any of Woody Allen's earlier stuff (yes, even Annie Hall). I always make a note of it to remedy the fact, but for some reason or another I just haven't been able to sit down and watch any of his 'classics'. His newer films, however, I am a huge fan of with Midnight in Paris being one of my favorite movies of last year and Match Point and Vicky, Christina, Barcelona being two great films as well. So, with a little request (that I'm incredibly late on delivering), I sat down and watched Allen's 1973 movie, Sleeper. And I have to say, I enjoyed the living daylight out of it. 

Who would have ever thought that Woody Allen would make a sci-fi comedy?

The movie follows Miles Monroe (Allen), a health food store owner and clarinet player who wakes up 300 years in the future. After an ulcer operation goes wrong, Monroe was put into a cryostasis and eventually shipped away, never to be discovered until now. In the future, the world has completely changed, with government oppression (a la Big Brother), over-sized produce and chickens for food supplies, and man's inability to maintain an erection (thus, the introduction of the Orgasmatron). Revived by a group of scientists working for 'the resistance underground', Monroe is thrown head first into a battle to overthrow the government. Yes folks, a nerdy, scrawny, neurotic Woody Allen is the country's only hope. And boy does it play out wonderfully. While on his journey to "rebel", Monroe runs into the beautiful Luna (Diane Keaton), and the love that blooms between the two is not just awkward, but hilarious to watch. Allen and Keaton work beautifully off of each other and turn their relationship into something that could easily be dismissed, as something pure and true. 

Woody Allen: The Sex-Crazed Robot... 30 years before Futurama.

In my little research I did of Allen, I found that Sleeper is actually one of his most obvious attempts at slapstick comedy, channeling his inner Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. While most of Allen's comedies rely on the dialogue, Sleeper focuses on chase sequences and physical comedy, something that Allen is actually incredible at. Large portions of the film are just set to music, with the slightly sped up actions of Allen being the highlight of each scene. It's in these moments you can easily see Allen's genius. I am pleasantly surprised at the talent he has when he's not mumbling all nervous-like and would have loved to see more of this version of the man. There are moments where I literally found myself laughing out loud (something I rarely ever do with movies) and genuinely loving every minute of the movie. While the plot just moves every forward, Sleeper really jumps from one-liner to physical joke constantly. It's a series of events strung together that is very reminiscent of Chaplin and turns Sleeper into one of the most fun movies I've ever seen. Of course, not everything in the film is slapstick and Allen's signature style of dialogue is on display as well. Every line uttered by Monroe brings a smile onto your face and Allen's delivery makes everything feel even more natural, as though you're really sitting in the room with him, and being the only one to laugh at his dry, witty, humor .

One of the best scenes in the film features Woody Allen on his quest for food and his discovery of an over-sized produce farm. Hilarity ensues. 

I would highly recommend this film if you haven't seen it already. It's one of Allen's more under-appreciated films (from what I've read), but his experiment into something much different really pays off. My only complaint of the film is that it's just too short (only 89 minutes) and seeing that hours upon hours of footage was filmed but never shown makes me wonder what else is out there. It's a movie that leaves you wanting so much more in nearly every aspect and also leaves you wondering if anything like it could ever be made today. I remember discussing in my review of Duck Soup that that the genre of slapstick seems dead, and while Sleeper showed hopes of a revival (40 years ago), I honestly don't see anything like this coming out today. It's a terrible shame as the humor is universal. Seeing a real-life cartoon play out is just so much fun to watch and the simplicity of the humor seems to be far from what the "general population" seeks today. F**k. 

The Good:
Woody Allen carrying a film with more than just his dialogue, delivering countless moments of physical comedy that leaves you in stitches
The Bad:
a short-ish running time that leaves a lot more to be desired, as what you see on the screen shows so much genius
The Ugly:
realizing slapstick is dead and any hope for a revival seems far from reality

Overall: 9.0/10


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At September 20, 2012 at 5:40 PM , Blogger TheVern said...

Glad to hear that you enjoyed this one. I dressed up like this character for Halloween one year

At September 20, 2012 at 6:28 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Haha. I can totally picture that!

At September 20, 2012 at 9:11 PM , Blogger Richard Kirkham said...

I saw this when it opened in 1973. I laughed my fifteen year old ass off. When people refer back to Allen's funny period, it mostly ended with this. His other films after were "Funny" but not in the slapstick way that Sleeper, Bananas and Take the Money and Run were. His later movies are excellent for the most part but they lack the wackiness of these early movies. When he is trying to get away using the one man flying machine and he can barely jump off the ground, he utters the phrase " Japanese import." In those days it was American product that was the standard. My how the world has changed.

At September 20, 2012 at 9:13 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Haha. I now need to check out Bananas and Take the Money and Run

At September 20, 2012 at 10:47 PM , Blogger KimWilson said...

This is my least favorite of his revered comedies, but it is still funny on many levels.

At September 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM , Blogger Nick said...

I need to check out the rest of his stuff for comparison. But for now, I love the hell out of it.

At September 21, 2012 at 7:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is such a funny movie. I recently re-watched it -- I think of it as an example of "early Woody Allen" when he did screwball comedy. You should definitely watch more Woody Allen. Take the Money and Run is a good "early screwball" film. ;-) There are other terrific ones, including Annie Hall and Hannah and Her Sisters, which you won't want to miss. :-)

At September 21, 2012 at 7:59 PM , Blogger Nick said...

They are def. on my must watch list. Take the Money and Run is now even more with a couple of you guys recommending it!

At September 24, 2012 at 9:35 PM , Blogger Hannah M said...

I echo the suggestion to watch Take the Money and Run - it's my favorite of his straight-up comedies. Despite being a Woody Allen fangirl, Sleeper's pretty low on my list. I like it okay, just not nearly as much as some of his others. His other early one, Bananas, is actually one of the four Allen flicks I have not yet seen, but I hear it is excellent as well. And even though it's not a slapstick all the way through, Broadway Danny Rose has a hilariously wacky scene toward the end where a hitman is yelling threats at Allen in the helium factory he's hiding in. Super funny.

I will also throw in that Annie Hall, although more pleasant romcom and less screwball comedy, is one of four movies I could comfortably call my all-time favorite, and The Purple Rose of Cairo is near the top as well (as is Midnight in Paris, but you've already seen that one).

At September 24, 2012 at 9:37 PM , Blogger Nick said...

Well.. I guess I'll have to track down Take the Money and Run now.. popular demand lol.

And yes, Midnight in Paris is superb.


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