Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Women of 1975: Diane Keaton

Diane Keaton in “Love and Death”

Grade: ***

Diane Keaton’s third teaming with Woody Allen in as many years finally provided her with a role seriously discussed in terms of awards, as a disloyal Russian aristocrat in period comedy “Love and Death.” Representing Allen at his most coarsely cynical, “Love and Death” is laden with anachronistic pop-culture references, stand-up style quips and slapstick humour, provided largely by Allen himself as a counter-punch to the absurdity of Russia’s stuffy political history. After a pedestrian effort like “Midnight in Paris” it’s rather welcome to reflect on Allen in his less mature days as a filmmaker, in which Diane Keaton’s grasping ambition as a young actress lended itself well. 

The villainous, independent nature of Keaton’s Sonja at least gives her a foothold towards securing the attentions of the gazing public, the only remotely significant female character of “Love and Death,” and by far its chilliest representation of Russian nobility. The way in which she appears at once contemplative, and then brazenly dismissive, teases Allen’s lovestruck Boris into false hope – both of a union, and that she might possess an inkling of compassion. As a comedic device, this meshes well with the instinctively shallow aspects of Sonja; her thirst for male attention, tendency to commit too early, and her unashamed promiscuity. A satirical embodiment of what the most famous (or infamous) women in history are famous for – sleeping around – Sonja allows Keaton to use her quirks as an actress, transforming the character’s standoffishness into a dry outlet for humour .

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