Then My original love for Woody Allen’s films probably stems from time spent at my friend Tris’s house in the early nineties. When I first moved to my current flat, he was the school mate who lived around the corner and I’d somehow end up there at least once a week, watching films, listening to music and talking about how we were going to change the world -- or at the very least get a television series about twentysomethings living in the then Bohemian atmosphere of Lark Lane commissioned. It’s during one even that I first saw Love & Death via an off air recording on his top loading VHS player.
Now Given the budget Woody must have been commanding and a shoot in Hungary with a thousand extras and an amazing attention to period detail, another director, however apparently comedic, may have decided to try and make a wider, accessible point about war and humanity over a leisurely two hours. See Doctor Zhivago. Allen instead transfers his usual comic persona and scattershot approach to humour to the Napoleonic Wars, spoofing everything from Tolstoy to Eisenstein and expecting his audience to be in on the joke, have that kind of recall of classical literature. Sometimes we are. Sometimes we’re simply laughing at the ludicrousness of it all. But it also shows a change in the times that Allen could make a film with this depth of satire for a major studio.
I remember finding the music fairly incongruous first time around; popularly Prokokiev’s main theme is known as Sleigh Ride and turns up on innumerable Christmas compilation albums. Woody says the choice of this music was because they’d tried Stravinsky but those themes were too stark and he wanted some much lighter and brisker. But the movement is from the 1934 Soviet film Lieutenant Kijé (availble at the Internet Archive) directed by Aleksandr Faintsimmer based on the novel of the same title by Yury Tynyanov about a misread report during the reign of Czar Paul I (the son of Catherine the Great) leading to the creation of a fictional Lieutenant, the kind of story that wouldn’t have been out of place in one of these earlier funny pictures (and bares a striking resemblance to Frank Capra’s Meet John Doe).
Other than that, everything else you need to know in the trailer. In fact, the trailer strays very close to offering nearly the whole film, with some of the best jokes, in two and half minutes:
It's Sleeper with cossacks.