Posted by: ckckred | August 24, 2012

Sleeper: Woody Allen’s Nostalgic Look of the Future

Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) pretends to be a robot in this scene

I’ve always had an appreciation for Woody Allen but have realized that I have actually seen very little of his work.  Okay, it’s hard to watch every single film of a man who has made a movie every year for the past few decades, but I think I’ve only seen about five of his pictures.  So yesterday I watched one of his earliest works Sleeper, a sci-fi comedy that was a pleasant surprise.

In Sleeper, Woody Allen plays Miles Monroe, a nerdy health convenience store owner who goes to a hospital for minor surgery.  The next thing he knows is that he’s in 2173 and has been cryogenically frozen for about 200 years.  By then, American has become a police state, and some rebels have freed Monroe to help overthrow the government.  Since Miles has no records in the current time period, he’s impenetrable to the government records and could stop the leader.

From this brief plot description, Sleeper sounds like a run-of-the-mill action flick but that’s entirely not the case.  It really is a very Woody Allen-ish comedy with plenty of slapstick and gags.  Soon afterward, Miles disguises himself as a robot and meets Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), a supporter of the government who constantly bickers with the hero throughout the film.

Sleeper relies much on Allen’s perception of the future.  Most films portray the future as with flying cars, teleporters, etc.  In Sleeper, there are helicopter jet-packs, mechanical dogs, and giant vegetables.  Though I’m guessing Allen couldn’t go all out on the special effects because of the budget, Sleeper is a very imaginative film.

Miles is also often questioned by how the past was.  He is shown a group of artifacts dating around 1973 and asked to identify them like a picture of Stalin (“I don’t really like him”) to a Howard Cosell broadcast (“When people committed great crimes, they were forced to watch that”).

The plot parallels other sci-works like The Sleeper Awakes and 1984.  There’s also a parody of HAL 9000, the villainous computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey featuring HAL voice actor Douglas Rain.

Perhaps it can be noted that Sleeper debuted only a year after the Watergate scandal in Washington, an uncertain time in America with political unrest.  Allen adds a lot of political ideas into his story.  The government is seen as an all controlling force, not too different from Nazi Germany (in one scene a man is scene wearing the Nazi swatchka).  And the Underground leaders all praise the works of Karl Marx and try to establish a Communist state.

Sleeper is a very funny Woody Allen film.  It’s a good one to get into if you haven’t seen many of his pictures and certainly very enjoyable.

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