8 January 2000 | The_Movie_Cat
Bad taste done tastefully.
Everything You Always Wanted to Know... is frequently looked down upon as it fulfils its promise completely. That is, it contains a lot of sex.
To downplay the film on such a level is to do it a disservice: what may be overlooked is that, apart from the subject matter and the brevity with which such a topic is treated, this is shot extremely well.
A notable example of this is Allen's technique of having actors speaking with their backs to the camera. A very European style of filming, and one which, understandably, is most brought into play during the third vignette, a pitch-perfect satire of continental cinema. Also look out for the grand-scale surrealism that occupies the last two sequences: a 400-foot breast rolling down a well-shot hillside or a giant tongue may seem crude in context, but looked at solely for cinematic technique this is pure Fellini. This may seem to be overstating it, but never has a bawdy, slightly crass, comedy vehicle been so well conceived for the big screen. Even the opening sequence involving a multitude of white rabbits is shot with the screen in mind, a twitching nose and red eye the only objects punctuating an effective white counterpoint for the introductory credits.
And so to the content itself, which doesn't match the quality of the production and sags in the middle. The first three sketches are quite wonderful, the third, as mentioned, is exquisite, and the scenes with Gene Wilder romancing a sheep may not be as sophisticated, but are probably the funniest. The first sketch sees Woody as a medieval jester paraphrasing Shakespeare, though the gags really don't get any better (or more tasteful) than "T.B. or not T.B., that is the congestion". For this is a film that has no limits, and its content flirts with notions of bestiality, transvestism, the female orgasm, ejaculation and sex in public places. Not all of these are carried off particularly well, the transvestite sketch falling resolutely flat. There is also evidence of Woody's homophobia, casting himself as a sperm dreading being ejected during a "homosexual encounter". In fact, an eighth sketch was filmed, which suggested homosexuality arises as a direct consequence of fear of women. This was cut not on bounds of taste but due to the fact that Woody couldn't think of a good enough punchline.
Worst point of the film though, has to be the "What's My Perversion?" segment. While extremely satirical, this one leaves an extremely bad taste in the mouth as Woody seems to be going full-out to offend with this piece. While the basic idea could cause some amusement, seeing a panellist quizzing a contestant as to whether he's a rapist or a child molester is several stages beyond funny. Simarily, the sketch ends with a Rabbi's wife on her knees eating pork. An unnecessary addition to the film.
However, it is of importance in terms of Woody's screen "character". The rough edges, arrogance and pseudo-intellectualism of his mid-seventies work onwards has yet to emerge, and here we still have Woody very much as he was in "Casino Royale" - ie., a bit of a nerd and on the losing end of life. Amazing to think that in just two years time he was writing himself as a lothario who was exceptionally good in bed.
In conclusion, then, a worthwhile view if you're a student of film or a fan of Woody's, but if you're watching this one for the comedy then it's purely hit-and-miss.