Page 10-Friday, July 23, 1982-The Michigan Daily
'Sex Comedy' is a ball of fluff
By Chris Potter
WOODY ALLEN'S A Midsummer.
Night's Sex Comedy is such an,
amorphous little film you hesitate to;
laugh too hard for fear it might simply
disintegrate, likea ripe dandelion.
It's as close to conventional
moviemaking as its ubiquitous writer-
director-star has ever come. Sex'
Comedy blithely dilutes the self-
obsessed philosophical angst of Allen's.
more recent films, yet also spurns the
slapstick parody of his earlier years.
Stationed charmingly between comedy,
of manners and bedroom farce, Sex
Comedy is lilting as a July breeze,
refreshing as an iced lemonade at high
noon - and just about as long lasting.
The time is the summer of 1906, the
place a country home in upstate New
York. Three sets of couples engage in a
genteel game of musical beds, in-
cluding host Andrew (Allen) - a Wall
Street broker who moonlights as a
crackpot inventor. Most of Andrew's
life passion seems devoted to cruising
around in self-built flying contraptions
- an obsession which has lately caused
his sex life with wife Adrian (Mary*
Steenburgen) to grind to a dead halt.
Enter a quartet of weekend guests:
There's Adrian's cousin Leopold (Jose
Ferrer), a celebrated philosophy
professor who also a pompous,
postulating snob. Accompanying him is
his bride-to-be, Ariel (Mia Farrow), a
free-spirited, free-loving beauty who, it
turns out, once had a brief but platonic
affair with Andrew. Joining them are
Andrew's best friend Maxwell (Tony
Roberts), an increasingly lecherous
doctor, and his voluptuous, carnally
willing nurse Dulcy (Julie Hagerty).
Romantic alliances and jealous
rivalries flare like wildfire under the
bucolic forest branches. Andrew re-
asserts his affair with Ariel, after she's
told him she always wished they had a
second chance together. Alas, Maxwell
has also fallen for her, so badly that
when rejected he considers suicide as a
Maxwell and Leopold engage in bitter
philosophical debate, their shared
passion for Ariel the unspoken lynch pin
for their intellectual contentiousness.
Yet Leopold's wounded righteousness
says enough for him to launch a last-
ditch pre-nuptial fling with Dulcy, who
readys comics yet can beat Leopold at
chess with surprising ease.
Meanwhile, the understanding
Dulcy gives the frigid Adrian a crash
course in sex education; Adrian then
proceeds to physically attack Andrew
at the drop of a hat in public or in
private. Unfortunately, Andrew's ar-
dor has cooled, his having discovered
best friend Maxwell's been dallying
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. . . chasing love
with Adrian himself. Life, alas, is very
Pervading all this moonlight licen-
tiousness is an icon of genuine sorcery
- a magic lantern Andrew has inven-
ted which, when triggered, projects
various shadowy images of our
wayward sextette in various flirtations
with each other. The lantern spookily
ushers in Sex Comedy's finale, a
transfiguration as gorgeously haunting
as it is abrupt.
That's basically all the plot writer
Allen has infused, barely enough to fill
the movie's mere eighty-minutes' run-
ning time. Sex Comedy pays homage to
its spiritual godfathers, Shakespeare
and Ingman Bergman, yet the film is
unmistakeably American and
inimitably - albeit mutedly - Woody
All his favoritq.byproducts - the self-
abasing humor, the sex-and-guilt
agonies, the transcendental issues of
life and death - are present, yet exist
languidly, as though they were taking a
vacation from their ongoing wars with
the universe. When Adrian tells Andrew
early on, "I don't want to think about
anything for two weeks!," it's as
though Allen was reassuring his
audience: Relax - it's summertime.
The director has even demoted him-
self from a perennial alter-ago: Anrew
is merely a member of the group, not
the center of his creator's psyche.
Sex Comedy basks in a kind of
emotional democracy, hidden far away
from the citified self-centeredness
which pervades even the most farciful
of Allen's previous work.
The egalitarian spirit extends to his
cast, whose members perform with
equal if unmesmerizing competence -
though Mia Farrow seems to have been
mysteriously coaxed into aping a turn-
of-the-century Diane Keaton. Sex
Comedy owes a large debt to Felix
Mendelsohn, just as George Gershwin
gloriously citified Allen's Manhattan.
The director is also beholden to
cinematographer Gordon Willis, whose
lush wilderness landscaping often ap-
proaches the cabalistic paintings of
Thomas Eakins or Kaspar David
Contributions or no, one can't con-
ceive of this cinematic ball of fluff
holding together without Woody Allen's
own low-key yet painstaking guidance.
A Midsummer Nights Sex Comedy is a
minor masterwork at best, yet it
remains a flouncing, shimmering
delight - If not a movie for all seasons,
then surely for this one. Relax and
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