A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy

After the failure of Stardust Memories, Woody Allen seemed temporarily reconciled with the idea that he's basically a comic filmmaker. Here, unfortunately, he's still going for all the marbles—straining to lift his comedy to the level of Shakespeare and (on film) Jean Renoir (The Rules of the Game) and Ingmar Bergman (Smiles of a Summer Night). Allen plays an amateur inventor married to a frigid Mary Steenburgen: they invite two couples (Jose Ferrer/Mia Farrow and Tony Roberts/Julie Hagerty) to their summer home for a weekend of changing partners and spirit manifestations. Though Allen no longer insists so smugly on placing himself at the moral center of his work, the other characters are still defined exclusively by their relationship to him—and such solipsism is irreconcilable with the Shakespearean comedy of multiple perspectives. It's funny and sweet in spots, though the light moments get lost in the haze of imitation and ambitiousness.

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