Sleeper

Released:  1973

Cast:  Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Marya Small, Susan Miller

SUMMARY:  In 1973, Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) is a jazz clarinetist/health food store owner living in Greenwich Village when he goes into the hospital for a routine ulcer operation.  However, something goes wrong during the procedure, and the doctors cryogenically preserve Miles in a capsule.  Two hundred years later, in the year 2173, scientists find the capsule and revive Miles.  These scientists have revived Miles for a specific purpose:  they are trying to rebel against the government, and since Miles is not registered in any databases, he can travel undetected.  In 2173, America is ruled by an unnamed man, simply referred to as “Our Leader”, who rules with an iron fist.  The scientists know that the Leader is about to begin something called the “Aries Project”, and they want Miles to infiltrate the government and find out what it is.  Unfortunately, just after this is explained to Miles, government agents attack the house where he and the scientists are staying.  After several mishaps, Miles gets out of the house, then gets away by pretending to be one of the robots that are used as domestic servants.  Still believed to be a robot, Miles is taken to the house of Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), who needs his help with a party.  Miles stays in disguise the entire time, but Luna is unhappy with both his appearance and performance, and takes him to the factory to have his head replaced (she wants something more attractive).  After watching the factory workers forcibly remove the heads of several other robots, Miles makes an escape, taking Luna with him.  He ties her up, gags her and takes her to the woods, where he explains to her what is going on.  Luna does not believe or trust him, and calls the police the first chance she gets.  However, when the police arrive to take Miles into custody, they also arrest her, as she has had prolonged exposure to the “alien”.  This time, when Miles escapes, Luna helps, and they escape together.

The two travel around searching for the Aries Project, developing feelings for each other as they spend more time together.  They decide that they need to join forces with the rebels, but before they can do this, Miles is captured by the authorities.  Luna spends several days alone in the woods, before the rebels find her and take her in.  In police custody, Miles is reprogrammed so that he will be a helpful, non-questioning member of society.  He lives this way for some time, until Luna and several other rebels infiltrate his government living quarters and kidnap him.  They are able to reverse the reprogramming (although there is a phase where Miles believes himself to be Blanche Dubois from A Streetcar Named Desire, only responding when Luna acts as Stanley).  Miles remembers who he is, but is surprised that Luna has changed dramatically:  she now totally believes in the revolution (and free love), and is in a loose relationship with the rebel leader, Erno.  Following a plan designed by Erno (but modified dramatically by Miles), Miles and Luna disguise themselves as doctors and infiltrate the Aries Project.  There, they learn that the Leader was actually killed almost a year earlier, and that the only part of him that survived was his nose.  Doctors were able to keep the nose alive, and now intend to clone the leader from it.  Unfortunately, the other doctors believe that Miles and Luna are the doctors who are going to perform this cloning – while they watch.  Miles and Luna stall as long as they can, then make an escape with the nose.  They are chased by authorities until Miles drops the nose under a road roller, effectively killing it.  Miles and Luna get away, and after discussing the now-uncertain future of the world, kiss each other.

MY TAKE:  Usually, I am not much of a Woody Allen fan.  In most of his movies, he seems to play a nervous, pessimistic sex fiend, all of which gets old fast for me.  However, this is a really early Woody Allen film, and it’s considerably different.  It was the first Allen film with a well-developed plot and story line, and it’s a tribute to Buster Keaton, a favorite of Allen’s.  This is easy to see, particularly in the escape sequences – they’re slightly sped up, so they look like old movies, and Miles routinely gets himself into unintended comical situations.  For example, when he is hiding in the woods after kidnapping Luna, Miles goes searching for food.  He finds a farm where huge fruits and vegetables are being grown, and tries to take a banana.  Unfortunately, he decides to peel the banana before he takes it, and is then discovered by the farmer.  Miles tries to escape as the farmer tries to pursue, but both fall about fifteen times on the giant banana peel lying under their feet.  There’s also a recurring joke about the government agents that keep chasing Miles:  they have a weapon that looks like a bazooka, but also has what looks like a detonation box attached, which is used to fire the gun.  Despite all their advanced technology, these bobos can’t get the gun to work when they push the plunger on the detonator box:  the missile drops out of the gun one time, the detonator box blows up one time, and the final time, the tank behind them blows up.  For the most part, Allen (who cowrote, directed and starred) manages to keep with the Keaton theme of having funny gags without being too ridiculous or stupid.  For me, this meant it was a fairly enjoyable movie:  it’s madcap and amusing, but not dumb or disjointed.

RATING:  Entertaining.

 

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One thought on “Sleeper

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