Language: English, Yiddish
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi
Director: Woody Allen
Music: Woody Allen
Cinematography: David M. Walsh
“What happened to her face?”, about 38 minutes into this Woody Allen Sci-fi parody SLEEPER, audience can distinctly notice there is something drooping on the left cheek of Luna (Keaton), a make-up goof? How come this scene has been kept in the final editing? Nobody knows but Allen himself. From this angle, it actually bespeaks the half-hearted style of the movie and declares “don’t take me too seriously please!”.
In retrospect SLEEPER doesn’t stand out among Allen’s works, but indeed it is the watershed in his career since afterward (from LOVE & DEATH, 1975) his films has matured into a realm with a more sophisticated and judicious calibre about urbanite relationship philosophy which modern viewers are more familiar with, other than his earlier light-hearted and sex-obsessed farces launch his long-lasting career. Also simply the idea of Woody Allen directs a Sci-fi movie alone sounds inviting enough for me.
Woody Allen is Miles Monroe, a store owner and divorcée in 1973, being revived out of cryostasis after 200 years, where autocracy has dumbed down human’s intelligence. When he is on the lam as an alien wanted by the government, he meets Luna Schlosser, a well-behaved citizen, a self-claimed poet with a degree in oral sex, Miles falls for her, and together, they will eventually sabotage a final attempt of cloning the dictator from his nose, the last remnant of his body. Although only possessing a shoestring budget, Allen constructs the future-world with a strong influence of futurism, although the settings look chintzy in sight by today’s standards, the film does stick with its wack-a-doodle mockery right from Monroe is awaken from his aluminum wrap, with many homages and references to past screen classics, theatrical pieces and slapstick burlesques.
Sex is the unalterable wont in Allen’s mindset, as he emphasises in the coda, sex and death are the only things he believes in. The most ridiculous props are the pleasure orb and the sex booth where two people can achieve orgasm in 10 seconds, Monroe has tried once, not with Luna, but with himself. The quarrelsome mode of Allen and Keaton forms a nice congruity which would later stride on to perfection in ANNIE HALL (1977).
Escorting the screwball plot is the ragtime score composed by Allen himself, a suitable company as Miles is an amateur musician in a jazz band too, altogether SLEEPER is definitely undemanding in viewers’ brainpower to grasp its mockery of superficiality and social politics, but an insouciant cruise in a meaningless fiction, sometimes one might feel too silly to be keen on what is materialising on the screen, unfortunately that is not a sign of a great film in my book.