Friday, April 20, 2007

Movie Log: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex *But Were Afraid To Ask

For whatever reason, the late '60s and early '70s were the heyday of ridiculously long movie titles...like "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Sex *But Were Afraid To Ask", a minor early Woody Allen film that I somehow managed to miss watching when I was twelve (when I would have really appreciated it). I'm sort of vaguely wandering through the early movies of Allen these days, so I watched it last night.

It's also a great example of one of Hollywood's more endearing bits of folly: the idea that, simply because something (in this case, a book) was very successful in one medium it must be turned into a movie, which will then be even more successful. This works for things which have stories (particularly fiction), but tends to break down with objects such as...well, such as a popular question-and-answer book about sex, which is what this movie was very, very loosely based on.

Everything comprises seven separate vignettes (each around ten minutes long), all loosely inspired by a chapter title from the book. I'll warn anyone thinking about watching this that the first vignette, which features Woody Allen (also the director and writer) as a medieval Fool and Vanessa Redgrave as the randy Queen he's trying to get it on with, is by far the worst piece of the movie -- it's dull, unfunny, goes on too long, and is so dimly lit it's hard to see what's happening at times. The movie does get better from there.

In fact, the other six pieces are pretty good -- they're variable, but they're all funny at least in places, and the movie recovers the ground it lost in those boring first ten minutes. Gene Wilder has a great turn as a doctor who falls in love with a sheep, and the last section (with Tony Randall as the head of the crew inside a man's brain as he goes on a dinner-date and then has sex) is inventive and wonderful. But it's all so very '60s: this is the squinting look towards the sun of a culture that had tried to ignore sex for a good generation or more. (And still gets things wrong -- the "What is sodomy?" section is actually about bestiality, which is not at all the same thing.)

So, for someone my age, it's like looking at a time capsule of what my parents' generation thought sex was. And thinking of it that way is really creepy. Ew. Sorry I mentioned that.

2 comments:

Mike said...

it's also a great example of one of Hollywood's more endearing bits of folly: the idea that, simply because something (in this case, a book) was very successful in one medium it must be turned into a movie

I suspect Woody wanted to make a sex comedy and thought it would be funny to license the title, rather than having any intent of filming the book.

Andrew Wheeler said...

Mike: From what I've read, it was in development at the studio pre-Woody; other screenwriters had already tried (and failed) to turn it into something that looked like a movie.

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