A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)

Movie Poster

“The saddest thing in life is a missed opportunity.”

If dirty is on your mind, then you are far-off the subject than you could be. If funny is on your mind, then you are a little to the left from where you’re ought to be. And so help you God if you think that it has anything to do with Shakespeare. If all this was on your mind after reading the title, then my friend Woody has got you hooked. Like him or not, he sure knows how to demand the attention from his audience and critics like wise.

When the production on Zelig (1983) was stalled, Woody had a chance to pen this confusion down in no less than two weeks. Filming it in as many months. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy is one of Allen’s most confusing theme for a movie. It’s got nothing to do with any genre that is typically found out there on any movie database that I could agree with (even though some sites termed it as a romantic comedy). This film is inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night — not the plot per se but the tone. AT least that’s what the media says.

The story is based on three elements- three couples’ romantic complications, mid-summer weekend vacation and supernatural happenings. Couples in the story are: Andrew (Woody Allen), accountant and inventor; his sexually repressed wife Adrian (Mary Steenburgen); Leopold (Jose Ferrer), Adrian’s uncle and University professor; Leopold’s sexually adventuresome fiancé Ariel (Mia Farrow), who Andrew once dated; Maxwell (Tony Roberts), an incessantly horny doctor, who is also Andrew’s best friend; and Dulcy (Julie Hagerty), Maxwell’s nurse and FWB (friend with benefits). But you won’t be made to pay too much attention on the characters. This move is not about the characters but about what and how they survive this vacation.

It possesses a little slapstick funny moments and much more confusion, both within the plot and the characters. Woody himself didn’t crack any jokes. This movie was however significant in one way; it was the first time that Woody shared the screen with Mia Furrow.

The film progresses in a rhythm wherein one is unable to grasp fully what is the message that it is trying to send across. Although on observing again, I figured that this message is discussed in the very first scene of the film. Points like: “Nothing is real but experience- that which can be touched, tasted, felt or, in some scientific fashion, proved.” “We must never substitute qualitative events that are marked by similar properties and recurrences for fixed substances.”  “Metaphysical philosophers are men who are too weak to accept the world as it is.” “Apart from this world there are no realities.” The whole argument in this first scene is how the theme is set for the movie.

The Spirit Ball

The Spirit Ball

The element of supernatural is brought in by Allen’s character Andrew who has invented a “Spirit ball” which can communicate with the spirit world. Andrew believes that there is more to life than what we perceive with our five senses. When Leopold dies (the night before his wedding to Ariel) due to a heart attack caused by having amazing sex with nurse Dulcy (as he discovers through the Spirit Ball that Ariel is cheating on him with Andrew), just then a light emerges from the Spirit Ball and it’s Leopold’s voice that they all hear. He tells them that he is amongst the spirits in the enchanting woods who died at the hight of love making and that Andrew was right about his theory of ‘there is more than meets the eye’. This light then goes out and vanishes in the dark and the rest of the gang just watched it in awe and amazement. The End!

This is not a terrible movie at all. It’s a good one time watch or even two (who’s counting) if that’s how long it takes for you to understand the moral of this story. It taught me that opportunities should be grabbed as it comes. You only live once and you should not live it in fear or disappointment of ‘what if’s’ and ‘could haves’.  We should not take others for granted and that time is of the essence when it comes to love. Others might dis it and regard it as a waste of time but try and see the good in everything and you might learn a thing or two.

Mia Furrow was apparently nominated at the Razzie Award for Worst Actress. That’s the first and the last time that any Woody Allen movie actress got to have such kind of ‘honour’. Woody Allen has said of Mia Farrow’s performance anxieties on this movie: “I calmed her but I was not completely sympathetic, because I didn’t realize the dimensions, the gravity. I knew she’d be wonderful in it. It never occurred to me she’d disappoint me”. Every other character however played their parts to the T and were captivating. Gordon Willis was the cinematographer on this and the movie was filmed almost entirely outdoors. The role of Ariel was initially made for Diane Keaton but she was busy with promotions of her movie Reds and so, Mia took over. This was Woody Allen’s first movie for the fledgling Orion Pictures, whose executives had run United Artists and produced Allen’s movies for that company.

Not a great soundtrack compilation on this one. In fact, there weren’t much to begin with. No typical jazz tracks as is known a staple in Allen’s work. But then again, it didn’t need any major conductors. The film did not win any awards for obvious reasons. Although it scored 6.7 on IMDB and 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. You be the judge. Check it out and send in your reviews in the comments below. Check out the trailer below; hopefully it will get you excited to watch it.

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