Teeming with all "the beauty of an impressionist painting" (The New York Times), A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy is writer/director Woody Allen's "lightest and most sensual film" (L.A. Weekly) to date. Starring Allen, Mia F... more »arrow (directed by Allen for the first time), Jose Ferrer, Julie Hagerty, Tony Roberts and Mary Steenburgen, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy is a dazzling, uproarious masterpiece from "America's best comic filmmaker" (The Film Journal)! Love is in the air and magic is afoot when turn-of-the-century inventor Andrew and his wife Adrian host a country wedding for the pompous philosopher Dr. Leopold and his young fianc√(c)e Ariel. But when Andrew's best friend, the randy Dr. Maxwell Jordan, and his lusty nurse Dulcy turn up for the festivities, the stage is soon set for thwarted seductions, mismatched mates and magical mayhem, as Maxwell falls for Ariel, Ariel seduces Andrew, Leopold beds Dulcyand the bride and groom say "I do"to everyone except each other!« less
"Have to agree with Mr. Terry Lane--this is a fabulous movie. It's my sentimental favorite of all Allen's films. I've seen a lot of mediocre reviews of this film and that's a shame. I guess I couldn't rightly say that this is his "best" film, but I do believe it is his "best executed." The setting, the characters, the cinematography just all click. Sure, it isn't his deepest film, it is probably less cynical than most of his other films, but folks, that's not the point of this little gem. In spite of the Smiles on a Summer Night inspiration, this film really owes more (and owes it more directly) to Shakespeare's fantasy comedies like A Midsummer Night's Dream.As one review mentioned, this is a piece of Impressionism. It isn't about meaning or message specifically--it's about mood. And let me tell you, this film captures the mood of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream better than any production of the play I have ever seen--and I'm not exaggerating. Critics of Woody Allen's "Sex Comedy" have no right mouthing off unless they are open to and can appreciate the whimsy that makes Shakespeare's comedies so affecting. That, it seems to me, was the point of the originals, and that is also the point of this movie. We, the audience, like gods are peering in on the mere mortals as they haplessly play at the game of life. We laugh at and with them because we are so far removed, but really, they reflect us, and this draws us in where we can also be happily implicated. In true comedy we recognize our own humanity--it is the art of comedy to show us these things that could be painful, this suffering that defines our existence, in a way that we can do nothing but laugh and simply accept it. That is a subtle art and one worthy of respect. A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy is a perfect example of this art of whimsy and is a perfect amalgam of Shakespeare and Allen. This is probably unfair to say, but the film also captures a feeling that American films just don't do well--it can seem very European and is maybe, for this reason, harder to relate to for many Americans.And, oh yes, by the way, this film is filled with some of the most beautiful shots, music, and locations I've ever seen. What a fabulous place to escape to! I've been chomping at the bit for years for this to come out on DVD. Whenever I watch this film I can't help but be overcome with joy--and believe me, I'm not a light movie flake. If I could pick two movie characters I identify with the most it would be Shrek and the Grinch (although maybe I just have a green thing going on). But even a grumpy old coot needs to let his inner soft side out every once in a while. If anybody I know is listening, please, get me this for Christmas!"
The Woodman does a Shakespearean Theme. Very Good
B. Marold | Bethlehem, PA United States | 04/02/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"`A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' and `Shadows and Fog' are two of Woody Allen's `second tier movies, less highly regarded than `Annie Hall', `Manhattan', and `Hannah and Her Sisters', but nonetheless a great pleasure to watch over and over again for anyone who has a taste for Allen's movies. The fact that Allen's movies, even these parodies of classic works and genres are primarily about characters and their personalities, passions, and foibles rather than about story, so you don't loose the primary reason for watching the movie as you do when you watch `The Maltese Falcon' or `Die Hard' or even `The Terminator' for the first time. I have seen both of these movies several times and I constantly find new pleasures in the dialogue.
Aside from their both being genre parodies, both movies share several other aspects, not the least of which is Allen's usual well oiled crew plus great `visiting' Director of Photography. I am constantly amazed at the consistently high level of quality in the filming of Allen's movies, since he has a great reputation for bringing his works in within schedule and under budget. Part of his economy is probably due to the fact that while Allen as director is not in the same league as Martin Scorsese or even Clint Eastwood, lots of actors drop what they are doing to be able to appear in the next Woody Allen film. And, they probably appear for a lot less money than they would for Marty or Clint. I also sense in some scenes that Allen lets little flubs go to the final print which Scorsese, for example, would reshoot until it was perfect.
The casts on these two films are fairly evenly balanced between Allen's ever evolving stock company with Mia Farrow appearing in both films along with Allen regulars Tony Roberts in `Midsummer's Night' and `David Ogden Stiers' and Wallace Shawn appearing in `Shadows and Fog'. Since the latter movie has a much larger cast, it is liberally peppered with currently famous or near famous actors giving cameo appearances such as Kathy Bates, John Cusack, Jodie Foster, Fred Gwynne, Julie Kavner, Madonna, Kate Nelligan, Donald Pleasance, Lily Tomlin, Kenneth Mars, William H. Macy, and John C. Reilly. John Malkovich contributes an excellent performance as the second most important male character in the movie.
The 1982 `A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy' is certainly the lighter of the two as a parody on the theme of `A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Allan borrows Shakespeare's romantic mix-ups plot element on top of the idyllic forest venue to bring together two guest couples to the country home of Allen and Steenburgen. Jose Ferrer plays a polymath professor brother to Steenburgen's character. Ferrer is to marry Mia Farrow, many years his junior, on that Sunday at the country house. Tony Roberts plays a randy bachelor doctor brother to Allan's character. Hagerty is Roberts' office nurse of five weeks who comes along fully expecting a weekend of erotic experiences with her boss. It turns out that Allen knows Farrow and the romantic mix-ups take off from there.
The 1992 `Shadows and Fog' is an intentionally heavy parody of a mix of German impressionistic movies and Franz Kafka story lines with what seems like a cast of hundreds. It all takes place in what seems like pre-World War I Vienna, Berlin, or Prague or some other central European Germanic city. At the outset, it seems like a remake of the German film `M' starring the young Peter Lorre as a murderer. Unlike the `...Sex Comedy', the plot is much more involved. The first line involves Allen as a Kafkaesque cipher awakened in the middle of the night by a crowd of vigilantes with a plan to find a killer roaming the fog laden nighttime streets. The driving force of the plot involving Allen and the mob is that the vigilantes never tell Allen what his role is to be in this plan. They assume he knows his part and are irritated to the point of violence when Allen questions what it is he is supposed to be doing. The second major plot involves a dispute between circus performers Farrow (sword swallower) and Malkovich (clown) which breaks open when Malkovich is caught in a rendezvous with trapeze artist Madonna, the wife of the sleeping strongman. Allen and Farrow meet about half way through the film that brings Allen back to the circus after Farrow does a stint in a whorehouse and Allen comes close to being accused of being the murderer.
Both movies are primarily comedies, yet the humor in the first movie is based more firmly in the situation. The humor in the second movie seems to be more a relief from the perils faced by the two main characters. Although, the image of the positive side of having sex with a sword swallower is a very nice gag created by the characters' situations. On the other side of the coin, `Shadows and Fog' seems to have deeper observations about the human condition. Since I seem to be noticing some of these lines for the first time, after several viewings over the last 14 years, I feel even stronger about the durability of Allen's films.
Allen has always been a master of making very good use of familiar music in his movies. All the `incidental' music in `Midsummer Night' is from the works of Mendelsohn, including the music he composed for Shakespeare'' play to be performed in German. The music in `Shadows and Fog' is almost all taken from instrumental performances of works by Kurt Weill, primarily from `The Threepenny Opera' and the song `Whiskey Bar'.
Since I am a long time fan of Allen's movies, the only thing which disappoints me about these and all other of his DVDs is the fact that there is no director's commentary. This makes the difference between four and five stars for the DVD.
Recommended to any fans of Allen or comedy in general. "
Midsummer night's bliss
Mr Terry Lane | Blackburn, Victoria Australia | 11/20/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"At last, Woody's finest film on DVD. And it has never looked so good. Neither in the cinema nor on VHS has justice been done to this beautiful film, looking for all the world like an animated impressionist painting.This is Mr Allen's most sentimental, romantic and least cynical work. The location, the light, the cinematography, Mendelsshon's music and Jose Ferrer's acting all work together to make a funny, charming, gorgeous film. And now we can see it widescreen, framed as Allen and Willis intended.I have been waiting since DVD was invented for this film on disc. It is not a disappointment."
J. E. Schonberg | Northeastern Illinois | 08/14/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Light hearted and whimsical....lots of fun to watch over and over. Late Victorian era set in the East Coast.... great costumes and location."
tron | 03/11/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"this is a untypical movie for Woddy Allen as he plays a more normal guy and the rest of the cast is philosophical. Its a very nice movie to watch in the winter as its filmed in a very beautiful place in the country in the summer. A must see."