USA Today - 01/10/1992
"...[The film] seems better than ever -- the film in which Allen's love of Bob Hope is most evident..."
Total Film - 11/01/2000
"...Allen and Diane Keaton are terrific..."
Uncut - 12/01/2004
"[T]his is probably the most relentless gagathon in movie history."
The bridge between Woody Allen's early slapstick satires and his later romantic comedies and dramas, LOVE AND DEATH is also a broad parody of his numerous influences. The film tells the tale of Boris Grushenko (the filmmaker himself), a cowardly Russian who miraculously survives the Napoleonic Wars only to discover that his heroism does nothing to advance his romantic prospects with his philosophical cousin Sonia (Diane Keaton). Her convoluted reasoning dictates that the pair of them must attempt to assassinate the French dictator, a proposal Boris agrees to in the hopes that he will finally win Sonia's love through the act. The contrast between Sonia's analytical mind and Boris's lustful one provides Allen with numerous opportunities to joke about gender differences, but it is the multiple parodies of both literature and film that drive LOVE AND DEATH's comedic narrative.
The most obvious target in the film is Russian literature: many jokes are built around the blend of fatalistic philosophy, historical narratives, and complex familial and character relationships that characterize novels by such authors as Fyodor Dostoevsky and Leo Tolstoy (the most obvious source for the film being his WAR AND PEACE). However, the filmmakers that have influenced Allen are also parodied; themes and even shots are taken directly from the work of Ingmar Bergman and Sergei Eisenstein. The musical score is assembled from compositions by Prokofiev, who wrote the scores for Eisenstein's later sound films, which were also heavily affected by Russian literature and history. Finally, the quick-witted, under-the-radar verbal hijinks in the film (like in other Allen films) bear the mark of the Marx Brothers, perhaps the most famous Jewish comedians aside from Allen himself. Although LOVE AND DEATH is not among the most well-known of Allen's comedies, there are few films that lay bare the influences of a master filmmaker as readily as this.