A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)    1 Stars

“Six characters in search of love”

A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982)
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)


Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, José Ferrer

Synopsis: A wacky inventor and his wife invite two other couples for a weekend party at a romantic summer house in the 1900s countryside.




Woody Allen’s 19th feature film was released after his more introspective Bergman-inspired works such as Interiors (1978), but bears closer relationship to his earlier (I’m tempted to write ‘funnier’) movies. Allen’s nervy, self-analytical brand of comedy has never really done it for me, but while A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy does contain elements of his indulgences, it at least has enough laughs to please those who find his work a bit of a slog. The reason for this could be that Allen wrote the piece in two weeks.

Directing himself as usual, Allen (Annie Hall, Manhattan) presents us with an examination of the nature of lust and sexual attraction, and what differentiates these states from the emotion of love. At one point, he crystallises this difference by stating that ‘sex alleviates tension, love causes it.’ Of course, the difference is more deep and sophisticated than this simplistic notion, but it serves as a suitable springboard from which Allen launches a pleasing romantic comedy that flirts with bedroom farce while maintaining an altogether more proper front.

The story sees Andrew (Allen), a wacky inventor of flying machines and spirit globes, and his sexually repressed wife Adrian (Mary Steenburgen – Philadelphia, The Help) inviting two couples to their idyllic countryside home in the early years of the twentieth century. The first couple comprises of Maxwell (Tony Roberts – Serpico, Annie Hall), a woman-chasing doctor and his sexually liberated receptionist (Julie Hagerty – Airplane, Airplane II), the second are Leopold (José Ferrer – Lawrence of ArabiaThe Sentinel), a pompous philosophy lecturer and Ariel (Mia Farrow) the woman he is soon to wed and, unknown to Adrian, with whom Andrew once nearly had a fling. As the weekend progresses, inter-couple personal enmity and sexual attraction soon rise to the surface.

It’s unusual to see Allen taking part in an ensemble movie, and it’s perhaps for this reason that I enjoyed A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy more than many of his other films. There’s less time – and apparently little inclination – to go deeply under the skin of each character. Now usually, a writer/director choosing to skimp on depth of characterisation would earn a black mark from any viewer, but when it comes to Woody Allen this is something of a bonus. It means we’re given a plot that keeps moving, and a regular stream of witty lines that arise as a result of the interplay between characters rather than a self-analytical monologue.

For this reason, A Midsumer Night’s Sex Comedy is one of the few Woody Allen films that I would recommend to others – and particularly to viewers who don’t usually appreciate his type of humour. If even this accessible slice of Allen’s wit isn’t to your liking, it at least has a brief running time.

(Reviewed 13th March)

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