Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Midsummer's Night Sex Comedy

Written, directed, and starring Woody Allen, A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy is the story about a gathering in the countryside where various people meet and fall in love in an entire weekend during the early 1900s. The film is a loose take on Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night where couples take part in a weekend where wild things happen. Also starring Mia Farrow, Jose Ferrer, Mary Steenburgen, Tony Roberts, and Julie Hagerty. A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy is a witty yet ravishing film from Woody Allen.

The film is about a group of people who spend a weekend in the countryside during the early 1900s as they prepare for the wedding day of a distinguished professor in Leopold (Jose Ferrer) and his younger bride Ariel (Mia Farrow) at the home of Leopold’s cousin Adrian (Mary Steenburgen) and her inventor husband Andrew (Woody Allen). Also invited is Andrew’s doctor friend Maxwell and his nurse Dulcy (Julie Hagerty) as everyone is there to relaxed but sexual tension and feelings for one another causes trouble. Andrew has a history with Ariel as the womanizing Maxwell falls for her. Leopold is intrigued by Dulcy while Adrian is going through marital difficulties with Andrew as she turns to Dulcy for help. During the course of the weekend, chaos ensues over people’s feelings towards one another culminating on the night where Leopold and Ariel are to be married.

Woody Allen’s screenplay explore the dynamics between people and their feelings for one another as Andrew is a crackpot inventor whose marriage to Adrian is going through problems due to lack of sex. Upon hearing that Adrian’s cousin is to marry a former lover of his, he is conflicted in his devotion for Adrian and the feelings he has for Ariel. Making matters worse is that when he invites Maxwell and his nurse Dulcy, the two contend for Ariel’s heart though Leopold is already aware of what is going on as he seeks to have one more moment of bachelorhood before becoming a wedded man. Allen’s script allows the film to have an air of silliness in the way people pursue each other while bringing a lot of witty dialogue that includes some great intellectual banter between Leopold and Maxwell that includes a funny scene of Maxwell eating a mushroom.

Allen’s direction is quite straightforward in terms of the compositions he creates while maintaining an air of something that is natural but also loose. There’s also moments where Allen infuses a lot of humor into the film as it revolves Andrew’s obsessions with flying and creating machines that has mystical powers relating to spirits. While a lot of the drama is straightforward and low-key that is balanced with comedy, the film has Allen also taking on the idea of sex but in a more restrained manner where it’s largely told in dialogue. There are also moments of mysticism and fantasy that Allen incorporates into the film as it relates to people’s desires to be with someone as well as some revelations that would play into the lives of these individuals. Overall, Allen creates a very smart and funny film about a weekend country retreat gone wrong all because six people want to simply have sex with one another.

Cinematographer Gordon Willis does amazing work with the film‘s very colorful and lush photography to capture many of the gorgeous yet naturalistic look of the scenes in the forest and upstate New York countryside as well as some low-key lighting schemes for some of the scenes set at night. Editor Susan E. Morse does brilliant work with the editing to infuse a few montages for life in the forest as well as creating some rhythmic cuts for some of its funnier moments. Production designer Mel Bourne, with set decorator Carol Joffe and art director Speed Hopkins, does wonderful work with the look of the country home the characters stay in to some of the design of Andrew‘s inventions.

Costume designer Santo Loquasto does terrific work with the period costumes to match up the sense of naturalism that is in display with the locations. Sound editor Dan Sable is excellent for the simplicity of the location of the sounds along with the way some of the dialogue is presented in some of the conversation scenes. The film’s delightful soundtrack largely consists of classical music that features mostly the works of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy as well as pieces by Franz Schubert, Robert Schumann, and Albert Hay Malotte.

The casting by Juliet Taylor is superb for the ensemble that is created as it features appearances from Michael Higgins as a colleague of Leopold and Kate McGregor-Stewart as a patient of Maxwell. Julie Hagerty is wonderful as Dulcy as a nurse who doesn’t know everyone yet intrigues Leopold and Adrian as she is someone who is very bright but also someone who understands the world of sexual dysfunction. Tony Roberts is terrific as Maxwell as a womanizing doctor who falls for Ariel as he has a hard time trying to win her over as he sort of detests Leopold. Mary Steenburgen is excellent as Adrian as Andrew’s sexually-frustrated wife who feels like their love is waning as she isn’t happy about Ariel’s presence in relation to her husband. Jose Ferrer is great as the very intellectual Leopold as a man who loves Ariel yet is suspicious about Andrew and Maxwell’s feelings towards her while he entranced by Dulcy.

Mia Farrow is remarkable as Ariel as a woman who finds herself the object of affection for all of the men involved as she also deals with her history with Andrew as well as the fact that she’s been everywhere but is somewhat unfulfilled. Finally, there’s Woody Allen in a marvelous performance as Andrew as an inventor who is dealing with marital issues as he realizes his feelings for Ariel as it’s Allen being funny but also a bit more restrained in his approach to drama.

A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy is a fantastic film from Woody Allen as it features a great ensemble cast that includes Tony Roberts, Jose Ferrer, Julie Hagerty, Mary Steenburgen, and Mia Farrow in her first of many collaborations with Allen. The film is definitely one of Allen’s most enjoyable comedies where it shows his sense of ambition while paying tribute to Ingmar Bergman in a comical manner. In the end, A Midsummer’s Night Sex Comedy is a terrific film from Woody Allen.

Woody Allen Films: What's Up Tiger Lily? - Take the Money and Run - Bananas - Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid to Ask) - Sleeper - Love and Death - Annie Hall - Interiors - Manhattan - Stardust Memories - Zelig - Broadway Danny Rose - The Purple Rose of Cairo - Hannah & Her Sisters - Radio Days - September - Another Woman - New York Stories: Oedipus Wrecks - Crimes & Misdemeanors - Alice - Shadows & Fog - Husbands & Wives - Manhattan Murder Mystery - Don’t Drink the Water - Bullets Over Broadway - Mighty Aphrodite - Everyone Says I Love You - Deconstructing Harry - Celebrity - Sweet & Lowdown - Small Time Crooks - The Curse of the Jade Scorpion - Hollywood Ending - Anything Else - Melinda & Melinda - Match Point - Scoop - Cassandra’s Dream - Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Whatever Works - You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger - Midnight in Paris - To Rome with Love - Blue Jasmine - Magic in the Moonlight - Irrational Man - (Cafe Society)

The Auteurs #24: Woody Allen Pt. 1 - Pt. 2 - Pt. 3 - Pt. 4

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