Sleeper (1973)

“This was Josef Stalin. He was a communist, I was not too crazy about him, had a bad moustache, lot of bad habits. This is Bela Lugosi. He was, he was the mayor of New York City for a while, you can see what it did to him there, you know. This is, uhm, this is, uh, Charles DeGaulle, he, he was a very famous French chef, had his own television show, showed you how to make souffles and omelets and everything.”

“What’s that? Are there strange futuristic creatures out here that I don’t know about? Like something with the body of a crab and the head of a Social Worker?”

“Science is an intellectual dead end, you know? It’s a lot of little guys in tweed suits cutting up frogs on foundation grants.”

“I’m not really the heroic type. I was beat up by Quakers.”

“I haven’t seen my analyst in 200 years. He was a strict Freudian. If I’d been going all this time, I’d probably almost be cured by now.”

“Sex and death – two things that come once in a lifetime… but at least after death, you’re not nauseous.”

‘Sleeper’, directed by Woody Allen in 1973, is an American science fiction comedy. Allen plays Miles Monroe, a clarinettist and health-food store worker form the 1970s who is cryogenically frozen and defrosted 200 years later. The world into which he emerges is a dystopic one in which an invisible dictator supresses creativity and radical thought. Monroe escapes from the hospital and is pursued by the authorities. Hooking up with Luna Schlosser, a socialite played by Diane Keaton, he becomes embroiled with the resistance movement, and uncovers a plot to clone the dictator. ‘Sleeper’ is a far broader comedy that Allen’s later movies, but in many ways this makes it a more enjoyable viewing experience. As a parody and pastiche of science fiction movies such as ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and George Lucas’s clinical ‘THX 1138’, it works better than others, mainly due to Allen’s skills as a director and his love of classic and international cinema. It’s a riotous slap-stick movie that, at times, looks like Bergman. The film takes the form of a series of set-pieces, each playing on the new world of convenience saving devices and how they affect human relationships.  Even sex has become streamlined, a running gag that is concluded in the brilliant final words of the film. Monroe becomes, therefore, a corrupting but liberating influence on the future world: anarchic, irreverent but real. It was reportedly Allen’s homage to Buster Keaton and Groucho Marx, both of who are clearly present in the sketches.

Would I recommend it? Yes – it’s fun and less introspective than Allen’s more regarded later films. I’d watch in a double bill with Tarkovsky’s ‘Solaris’ for the hell of it.

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