Sleeper (Woody Allen / U.S., 1973):

The relics defrosted in 2173 include a Volkswagen, a Howard Cosell clip, a set of chattering toy teeth, and Woody Allen in an inflatable costume. Rip Van Winkle here is a Greenwich Village health-food store owner who visits the hospital for an ulcer surgery and is roused two centuries later in the dystopian American Federation. "Have you ever taken a serious political stand on anything?" "Sure. For 24 hours once, I refused to eat grapes." Separated from the underground rebel movement, Woody dons android drag and infiltrates Diane Keaton’s household, where he does battle with a marauding mountain of pudding, gets high by rubbing silver orbs, discovers the Orgasmatron, and kidnaps the princessy ditz with the threat of "large and painful hickeys." Entering society is just a matter of adapting to the McDonald’s golden arch occasionally adorning the antiseptic architecture, though an impromptu recital of A Streetcar Named Desire is required to reverse the brainwashing. Allen’s investigation of a "cosmic screwing" registers Kubrickian sci-fi, from A Clockwork Orange’s wide-angle lens to HAL-9000’s reaction shots to the Allen-Keaton clowning in the surgery room. Against the desolation of futurism Allen posits Dixieland jazz and Mack Sennett slapstick, plus the joyous silliness of an oversized banana-peel joke and robots who break away from droning servitude to engage in swishy, kvetching minstrelsy. Chaplin’s giant chicken, Duck Soup’s mirror gag and Weekend’s meat-munching guerillas are all readjusted to the Brave New World. Revolution is more successful than in Bananas, but Woody is still unimpressed: "What the hell am I doing here? I’m 237 years old, I should be collecting social security." The punchline holds Allen’s philosophical précis, and the title for his next bit of time-traveling shtick: "Sex and death. Two things that come once in a lifetime... but at least after death, you’re not nauseous." With John Beck, Mary Gregory, Don Keefer, and John McLiam.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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