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Sleeper

(7/10)

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Current Rating 9.11/10 | 9 Votes

Woody Allen now lives in a hermetically sealed cinematic universe, unconcerned with gaining new fans and generally creating a disturbing cult, one which accepts Allen as a cultural phenomenon along the lines of Star Trek, which makes me wonder how he ever became popular and well-known in the first place. A movie like Sleeper provides some answers (though not as many as, say, Annie Hall, one of Allen's few films totally accessible to non-neurotic outsiders) - equal parts buffoonish slapstick and clever one-liners, it actually brings the outside world to Woody rather than sticking to that mystical land where, inexplicably, 20-year-old females line up to worship him and the neuroses never change.

One of Allen's few non-dramatic films to take narrative risks, Sleeper blasts him from 1973 to 2173. Awakening to discover his ulcer operation went horribly wrong, leaving him cryogenically frozen for 200 years, Allen is quickly pressed into counter-revolutionary service and left to bumble about in a hostile environment just full of props and set gags. After a false start (the Woody-less opener almost resembles one of those humorless 70s anti-authority screeds), the film quickly gets its feet and plows through another brisk outing. If the laughs can seem a bit forced (the primary Keaton influence here isn't Diane, but Buster) and out of place, it's too fast and funny to mess with. Allen's in typically good form, Diane Keaton (as always) annoys the shit out of me and is therefore cast appropriately, and the rest of the cast is typically insignificant.

What's interesting about Sleeper is that it's the closest Allen's ever come to making a Grand Statement about his Beliefs, which are stated quite clearly to Keaton in the movie: God is dead, politics are insignificant, and only sex and death are interesting and important (only later would the Judaism fetish resurge, rising dormant from his essays). Allen wanted a 3-hour movie, the first half depicting his life before being frozen, and presumably that would have hammered the point across even more clearly. The time period, ultimately, makes no difference aside from offering new ways for Woody to trip up: in both times, he's equally alienated, self-loathing and unloved, or at least perceives himself that way. For a movie that's pretty funny, it's kind of depressing too. Aside from that, this movie also has the greatest cunnilingus one-liner I've ever heard: "Be quiet and eat your shiksa!" Though liking Allen might make you a dork, Sleeper is pretty friendly territory for all, and equally non-essential.

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