Love and Death


1h 25m 1975
Love and Death

Brief Synopsis

A devout coward vows to assassinate Napoleon in the name of love.

Film Details

Also Known As
Guerre et amour
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
War
Period
Release Date
1975
Production Company
Rollins & Joffe Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Films

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Synopsis

Boris, a 19th century Russian falls in love with his distant (and married) cousin Sonja. Pressed into service with the Russian army during the war against Napoleon, Boris accidentally becomes a hero, then goes on to win a duel against a cuckolded husband. He returns to Sonja, hoping to settle down on the Steppes somewhere, but Sonja has become fired up with patriotic fervor, insisting that Boris join a plot to kill Napoleon. The effort fails, and Boris faces the firing squad. After death, Boris materializes in front of Sonja to bid her goodbye, philosophizes a bit for the benefit of the audience, and dances a mazurka with the Grim Reaper.

Film Details

Also Known As
Guerre et amour
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
War
Period
Release Date
1975
Production Company
Rollins & Joffe Productions
Distribution Company
United Artists Films

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 25m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (DeLuxe)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio
1.85 : 1

Articles

Love and Death


Leave it to Woody Allen to make an irreverent burlesque about all things Russian, particularly its history, literature and film culture. While it might not have seemed a likely commercial prospect for a film in 1975, it's even harder now to imagine a major studio bankrolling a project like Love and Death despite the financial clout of the director or star. Yet, Love and Death touched on all the familiar Allen themes his fans had grown to love - relationships, sex, marriage, and self-deprecation - in the context of a nineteenth-century story about Boris Dimitrovich Grushenko, a cowardly peasant who is talked into assassinating Napoleon by his cousin, Sonya (Diane Keaton). Not only was Woody able to question religious and philosophical concerns within the comic framework of Love and Death, but he was able to pay homage to some of his favorite films: a battlefield hawker who sells blinis to the troops recalls Harpo Marx in Duck Soup (1933), a dueling scene appears modeled on a Bob Hope routine in Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), the climax is a direct nod to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) and 'The Scythian Suite' by Stravinsky is used as background music in one scene, just as it was in Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938). Famous dialogue from the novels of Tolstoy like War and Peace and Anna Karenina is also parodied along with in-jokes about the poetry of T.S. Eliot.

More than anything, Love and Death was a happy accident. Originally, Allen was trying to write a romantic comedy about two clever New Yorkers who solve a murder but wasn't able to work out the details to his satisfaction. With time running out on his script deadline, he happened to notice a book on Russian history in his library and the ideas began to flow. (He would later return to flesh out the characters of his two New Yorkers in Annie Hall (1977) and work out the crime-solving plot in Manhattan Murder Mystery, 1993)

Filmed on location in France and Hungary by Ghislain Cloquet, Love and Death was not an easy shoot. Woody sprained his back after falling on some ice in front of the Eiffel Tower, Diane Keaton suffered minor injuries to her eye from a violin bow, Producer Charles Joffe was rendered inactive by a bout of food poisoning, a supporting actor broke both legs in a car accident, the negative for an elaborate banquet scene was damaged and the scene had to be re-shot, the list goes on and on. In a later Esquire article, Allen said, "When good weather was needed, it rained. When rain was needed, it was sunny. The cameraman was Belgian, his crew French. The underlings were Hungarian, the extras were Russian. I speak only English - and not really that well. Each shot was chaos. By the time my directions were translated, what should have been a battle scene ended up as a dance marathon. In scenes where Keaton and I were supposed to stroll as lovers, Budapest suffered its worst weather in twenty-five years." Although Allen vowed to never again film outside of the United States (a rule he broke for Everyone Says I Love You in 1996), Love and Death was the director's most technically accomplished film to date (number five) and even Woody admitted it was "my funniest picture to that time."

Director: Woody Allen
Producer: Martin Poll, Charles H. Joffe, Fred T. Gallo
Screenplay: Woody Allen, Mildred Cram, Donald Ogden Stewart
Cinematography: Ghislain Cloquet
Editor: George Hively (uncredited), Ron Kalish, Ralph Rosenblum
Music: Sergei Prokofiev
Art Designer: Willy Holt
Set Designer: Claude Reytinas
Cast: Woody Allen (Boris Dimitrovich Grushenko), Diane Keaton (Sonja), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), Frank Adu (Drill Sergeant), Edward Ardisson (Priest).
C-85m. Letterboxed.

by Jeff Stafford
Love And Death

Love and Death

Leave it to Woody Allen to make an irreverent burlesque about all things Russian, particularly its history, literature and film culture. While it might not have seemed a likely commercial prospect for a film in 1975, it's even harder now to imagine a major studio bankrolling a project like Love and Death despite the financial clout of the director or star. Yet, Love and Death touched on all the familiar Allen themes his fans had grown to love - relationships, sex, marriage, and self-deprecation - in the context of a nineteenth-century story about Boris Dimitrovich Grushenko, a cowardly peasant who is talked into assassinating Napoleon by his cousin, Sonya (Diane Keaton). Not only was Woody able to question religious and philosophical concerns within the comic framework of Love and Death, but he was able to pay homage to some of his favorite films: a battlefield hawker who sells blinis to the troops recalls Harpo Marx in Duck Soup (1933), a dueling scene appears modeled on a Bob Hope routine in Monsieur Beaucaire (1946), the climax is a direct nod to Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) and 'The Scythian Suite' by Stravinsky is used as background music in one scene, just as it was in Sergei Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (1938). Famous dialogue from the novels of Tolstoy like War and Peace and Anna Karenina is also parodied along with in-jokes about the poetry of T.S. Eliot. More than anything, Love and Death was a happy accident. Originally, Allen was trying to write a romantic comedy about two clever New Yorkers who solve a murder but wasn't able to work out the details to his satisfaction. With time running out on his script deadline, he happened to notice a book on Russian history in his library and the ideas began to flow. (He would later return to flesh out the characters of his two New Yorkers in Annie Hall (1977) and work out the crime-solving plot in Manhattan Murder Mystery, 1993) Filmed on location in France and Hungary by Ghislain Cloquet, Love and Death was not an easy shoot. Woody sprained his back after falling on some ice in front of the Eiffel Tower, Diane Keaton suffered minor injuries to her eye from a violin bow, Producer Charles Joffe was rendered inactive by a bout of food poisoning, a supporting actor broke both legs in a car accident, the negative for an elaborate banquet scene was damaged and the scene had to be re-shot, the list goes on and on. In a later Esquire article, Allen said, "When good weather was needed, it rained. When rain was needed, it was sunny. The cameraman was Belgian, his crew French. The underlings were Hungarian, the extras were Russian. I speak only English - and not really that well. Each shot was chaos. By the time my directions were translated, what should have been a battle scene ended up as a dance marathon. In scenes where Keaton and I were supposed to stroll as lovers, Budapest suffered its worst weather in twenty-five years." Although Allen vowed to never again film outside of the United States (a rule he broke for Everyone Says I Love You in 1996), Love and Death was the director's most technically accomplished film to date (number five) and even Woody admitted it was "my funniest picture to that time." Director: Woody Allen Producer: Martin Poll, Charles H. Joffe, Fred T. Gallo Screenplay: Woody Allen, Mildred Cram, Donald Ogden Stewart Cinematography: Ghislain Cloquet Editor: George Hively (uncredited), Ron Kalish, Ralph Rosenblum Music: Sergei Prokofiev Art Designer: Willy Holt Set Designer: Claude Reytinas Cast: Woody Allen (Boris Dimitrovich Grushenko), Diane Keaton (Sonja), Georges Adet (Old Nehamkin), Frank Adu (Drill Sergeant), Edward Ardisson (Priest). C-85m. Letterboxed. by Jeff Stafford

Quotes

And so I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Actually, make that "I run through the valley of the shadow of death" -- in order to get OUT of the valley of the shadow of death more quickly, you see.
- Boris
Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship or phenomenon exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
- Sonja
Yes, I've said that many times.
- Boris
My bedroom at midnight?
- Countess Alexandrovna
Perfect. Will you be there too?
- Boris
Naturally.
- Countess Alexandrovna
Until midnight then.
- Boris
Midnight.
- Countess Alexandrovna
You're an interesting young man. We'll meet again.
- Death
Don't bother.
- Young Boris
It's no bother.
- Death
Sonja, are you scared of dying?
- Boris
Scared is the wrong word. I'm frightened of it.
- Sonja
That's an interesting distinction.
- Boris

Trivia

The wheat scene with towards the end of the film is a direct visual parody of Ingmar Bergman's classic Persona (1966). The juxtaposition of faces is an homage to Bergman's trademark shots.

The soundtrack was originally scored with the music of Igor Stravinsky, but Woody Allen thought it made the scenes "unfunny". He discovered Sergei Prokofiev's lighthearted music worked far better.

The shots of the lion statues edited into the love scene between Boris and the Countess are parodies of similar statues in Bronenosets Potyomkin (1925), shown during the Odessa Steps massacre scene.

Allen claims that of all the movies he's done, this is his favorite and most personal.

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Summer June 10, 1975

Released in United States March 1980

Released in United States Summer June 10, 1975

Released in United States March 1980 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (The Epic: A Monumental Movie Marathon) March 4-21, 1980.)