For Reel

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)

Director: Woody Allen
3.5 Stars
everything-you-always-wanted-to-know-about-sex-but-were-afraid-to-askBananas, Woody Allen’s sophomore feature, laid the groundwork for many of his themes to come while maintaining an anarchic joy in the surreal. Regardless, its breathless pacing and manic shifts gave it the feel of a sketch writer throwing all of his ideas on the screen. Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex… redeems that film’s shortcomings by embracing an episodic aesthetic, allowing Allen to not only embrace his wildest ideas, but giving them room to flourish in a comparatively self-contained context (this structure allows him to hit the reset button every ten minutes or so). Not all of the chapters work, but the ones that do are remarkable—the sustained humor of the “What’s My Perversion?” sequence shows a comic discipline in building to a priceless climactic image, and the “What is Sodomy?” chapter allows for a sustained scene in which Gene Wilder convincingly shows his growing sexual fascination with a sheep. The unifying thread to all of these stories is that the ways we degrade ourselves in the name of sex is inherently funny. Allen makes a convincing case for it. In the film’s final, most elaborate sketch, Allen displays every variation of his comic mastery, from his neurotic performance, to the surreal imagery, to the impeccable timing of the lines delivered by Burt Reynolds and Tony Randall.