Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Dr David Reuban, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask sees Woody Allen’s third film as writer/director/star. Seven hilarious tales each parody elements of society’s values and satirise cinematic genre conventions. From the auteurs of Italian cinema to science fiction, films as varied as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Fantastic Voyage and Casanova 70 are utilised to comedic perfection by Allen.
The opening image of the film is a group of white rabbits, tenderly bouncing around and looking mischievous as the Cole Porter song “Let’s Misbehave” plays. It is clear from the start that Allen is playing around, which is heightened even more with the first story. Playing the King’s fool, an awkward comedic figure, Allen falls in love with the Queen (Lynn Redgrave) and manages to spike her drink, making her fall in love with him. A chastity belt is all that stands between their love making, only to be interrupted by the King and consequently sentenced to death. This correlation isn’t lost on Allen fans, seeing an emergence of Allen’s two favourite ruminations in one hit: sex and death.
Allen’s first wife, Louise Lasser, appears for her final credited performance in an Allen film as the wife of Allen who can only achieve orgasm in public spaces. Lasser is deadpan in her comedy, which works tremendously well against Allen’s stumbling hands. Even as a suave Italian, he is incompetent and fumbles his way through love making.
Employing a strong ensemble of actors, Allen’s short vignettes are snappy tone with extremely witty dialogue. Allen crosses the styles of irreverent satire with an Italian homage to Bertolucci to a crasser and obvious humour with a giant escaping tit in the second final sketch with hysterically demented John Carradine. Another brilliant segment features Jack Barry in a television show “What’s My Perversion?” unmistakably parodying Berry’s own “What’s My Line?” show. The film also features a transvestite skit, Gene Wilder sodomizing a sheep, and Tony Randall at brain control guiding the different sections of the body into impending intercourse.
A preoccupation with sex does return to many of Allen’s films, albeit in a lesser thematic way. By this early stage in his cinematic career, Allen had truly made a mark transitioning from a stand up comedian to a comedic filmmaker.
Read more entries in our Wednesdays with Woody feature!