Second Time Around

Sleeper
Woody Allen's 1973 work of slapstick science fiction may be the best of the "early, funny ones" that established his reputation. Unlike most of his work then -- or later -- it emphasizes visual humor over mere illustration of his wordy notions, a flaw in most of his other films. Allen makes terrific use of white-on-white cinematography in creating a techno-dystopia 200 years in the future, and his limited skills as a mime are hilariously effective in scenes in which he mimics a household robot. (If Allen borrowed his bleached mise en scene from George Lucas' THX 1138, Lucas paid him back by borrowing from Allen's android in creating C-3P0 a few years later.) Allen gleaned further cues from such disparate sources as Buster Keaton (spot The Navigator homage and win a prize) and Bob Hope's clumsy boasting ("We're big doctors, we're not impostors"). Diane Keaton, as a spoiled 22nd-century poet turned revolutionary, is a fine foil to Allen's inadvertent rebel in what is one of the very few successful American visual comedies of the post-talkie age. While 1973-era topical humor dates the film, Allen's use of Dixieland jazz to score the action is endearing, rather than the predictable gimmick it's become more recently.

-- Gregg Rickman

Sleeper screens Saturday, Nov. 14, at 3:30 and 11:30 p.m. at the Parkway, 1834 Park (at Lake Merritt), Oakland. Admission is $3; call (510) 814-2400.

 
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