Woody Allen’s ‘Love and Death’ on Prime Video

Woody Allen and friend in the comedy co-starring Diane Keaton

In Love and Death (1975), Woody Allen spoofs epic Russian literature, Chekov plays, and Bergman movies with a mix of philosophical vaudeville and Borscht Belt one-liners and sight gags.

It was his sixth feature as a director and his third screen appearance with Diane Keaton, who gets as many punchlines as Allen does, and often in the same comic voice. It’s also a turning point in his career, the last of his genre parodies with scripts that string gags together rather than tell stories, and the first to really engage his love of philosophy, literature, and the existential drama of Bergman movies (as when his Doystoyevskian Russian serf debates a Bergmanesque appearance by Death).

While well-photographed by Ghislain Cloquet (who shot films for Jacques Demy, Louis Malle, and Robert Bresson and went on to win an Oscar for Tess), the film has a haphazard direction that never really gets at the visual elegance or careful art direction and lighting of the films he’s parodying. Allen made a great leap as a filmmaker with his next film Annie Hall, his first film to develop fully-realized characters and apply his comic instincts to commentary as well as generating laughs.

Love and Death has a rather endearing innocence in its anything for a laugh aesthetic aimed at an audience who can appreciate both the high art and low comedy colliding in his jokes.

Rated PG

Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Love and Death [DVD]
Love and Death [Blu-ray]

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On DVD from MGM and Blu-ray from Twilight Time in an edition limited to 3000 copies. The Blu-ray looks very good: sharp, colorful, and clean. No supplements beyond the Twilight Time trademarks: an isolated score and a booklet with an essay by Julie Kirgo.


Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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