Reading through What Is to Be Done?, I found myself remembering Woody Allen’s film, Love and Death, from 1975. The stilted dialog and philosophical expositions in the novel are so wooden, they seem like the parody of Allen’s film. I am amazed at how much of the film I remembered, but I thought it was much funnier this time around, despite the fact that when I saw it, I was in my Russian Lit phase.
It’s a wild parody and pastiche of 19th century Russian literary themes, primarily Tolstoy’s War and Peace and various Dostoyevsky works, with visuals that humorously echo Ingmar Bergman. In the scene above, Allen, a new recruit, shamed into enlisting to fight Napoleon, is upbraided by a black drill sergeant. He goes on to inadvertently save the battle by being shot out of a canon into the French generals’ tent.
I even found Diane Keaton, an actress to whom I usually react as to the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, very entertaining.