Having tackled the future in Sleeper, Woody Allen now moves almost as far back in time to Russia during the Napoleonic Wars.
Cowardly scholar Boris Grushenko (Allen) is more interested in the beautiful Sonja (Diane Keaton) than he is in fighting for his country, but when she ditches him for a prosperous herring merchant he decides to enlist in the army for a life of epic battles and all too personal duels.
Allen’s wonderfully funny spoof was inspired by his deep love of Russian literature, film and music, and Ingmar Bergman pops up too in the form of a visiting Angel of Death. It’s a significant advance on his other “early, funny films” in that it’s no longer just an excuse for a series of gags – there are plenty of those here, but they’re much more integrated into the film as a whole, a sign of his growing maturity as a writer-director.
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