Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, James Tolkan, Harold Gould, Olga Georges-Picot, Zvee Scooler, Jessica Harper, Féodor Atkine, Yves Barsacq, Brian Coburn, Tony Jay, Howard Vernon, Aubrey Morris, Alfred Lutter, Georges Adet, Sol Frieder, Lloyd Battista, Frank Adu
When Napoleon threatens to invade the Russian Empire, the coward Boris Grushenko (Woody Allen) is forced to enlist to save his country. He actually captures a group of enemy officers, but the French Army is too strong and soon Napoleon reaches Moscow. He so formulate a plot to assassinate Napoleon.
After relatively immature but amusing comedies, Allen surprised us again with an intellectual comedy.
Following situations similar to Lev Tolstoy's "War and Peace", Love and Death is another brilliant Allenian comedy that includes many existential reflections.
Woody Allen uses the pretext of Napoleonic wars to reflect and to make the audience reflect on life and death, morality and God. He adopts a philosophy that sometimes uses moral as a support for cowardice, and as a rational excuse for doing nothing. He also criticises the absurd attempt of many thinkers to prove the existence or otherwise of God through rational processes.
In the film the meaning of life and the existence of God are closely linked and brought to exaggeration with some lines worthy of note: "Sonja, what if there is no God?" says Allen, to whom Keaton replies : "But if there is no God, then life has no meaning. Why go on living, why not just kill yourself?" "Well, let's not get hysterical: I could be wrong. I'd hate to blow my brains out and then read in the papers they found something." closes Allen pointing upwards.
Forget "Annie Hall" and "Manhattan" because it's in this film that Allen really shows what his cinema is like, a cinema made of philosophy, questions of life, attention to human relationship, especially towards love, and amazing humour. This is where you see Allen is not an actor but a character able to bring himself in each story he tells.
That being said it does mean that Allen's acting is bad. In fact, he brilliantly portrays Boris Grushenko, and he supported by a superb performance from Diane Keaton as the frivolous Sonja.
To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you're getting this down. - Sonja