Wednesdays with Woody: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)

midsummer nights sex comedy

A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy is notable for being the first Woody Allen film starring Mia Farrow, who would go on to be his muse on and off the screen in thirteen films. Sex Comedy is a light and dreamy romantic comedy inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s Smiles of a Summer Night, which was also the inspiration for Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music.

Set in the early 1900s, the film tells a story of a wacky inventor (Allen) and his wife (Mary Steenburgen) who invites two couples to a weekend party. The couples are made up of a philosopher (José  Ferrer) and his much younger fiancée (Farrow) and a womanising doctor (Tony Roberts) with his free spirited girlfriend (Julie Hagerty). Familiar faces, old romances and sexual exploration run rampant as the weekend unfolds.

Originally written for another Allen stalwart, Diane Keaton, the role of Ariel is played airily by Farrow. Although not nearly deserving of her Razzie nomination for worst actress, it seems Farrow is lost in the role and it wouldn’t be until future Allen outings that he would tap the internal powerhouse of this seemingly meek actress.

Steenbergen is an ideal choice as Allen’s wife; being an eccentric oddball actress herself she fits perfectly and bounces off Allen’s typical neurotic and sexually frustrated inventor.

The most redeeming feature of Sex Comedy is the lush cinematography. Quiet, beautiful scenes are reminiscent of Sofia Coppola’s much later Marie Antoinette. During the film there is an interval as the characters explore the nearby countryside, venturing into the woods and indulging in the weekend. This sequence unfolds softly and expertly that one wishes the rest of the film had continued in this dream like state.

Such inspiration this film took from Bergman’s earlier Smiles of a Summer Night that that it almost reminds us of what A Little Night Music (1978) could have been if done right.

Not the most memorable of Allen’s body of work, especially at time when most of his entries were critically acclaimed but the likeable characters and satisfying conclusion as the couples are finally united with their true love, the oddball casting also makes this highly especially enjoyable.

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