28 January 2003 | Nriks
Rabbits, sperm, giant breasts and a woody!
Representing something of an early high point in Woody Allen's career, this scattershot spoof of David Rueben's highly popular sex-manual has become somewhat sadly overlooked in favour of the more mature and whimsical charms of 'Annie Hall' and 'Manhattan', but 'Everything you always wanted to know about sex' is just as enjoyable as his later works, if not more so.
Although the overt intellectualism that many of Allen's detractors criticize in his subsequent work is already beginning to take form here, not only in the concept (seriously, who'd adapt a sex-manual?) but also in execution, which owes more to the high-brow Fellini and Godard than the low-brow Mel Brooks or John Waters, includes a great deal of metaphysical surrealism, bizarre camera angles and deliberately self-indulgent dialog. Here Allen's filmmaking approach is more self-serving than ever before, casting himself as a medieval stand-up comedian, a heroic leading man and a sperm, yet still finding time to feature in a lengthy satire on early-seventies European cinema. The reason it all comes together without succumbing to self-importance is down to the simplicity and stupidity of most of the set pieces.
The more interesting segments come at the beginning of the film, and if seeing Woody trying hopelessly to unlock Lynn Redgrave's chastity belt and miss-quoting Shakespeare to form a condemnation of T.B. doesn't bring a smile to your face, then the sight of Gene Wilder in the throws of foreplay with a sheep will probably do little to convert you. Humour for the most is juvenile, puerile and immature, but carried off with such hilarious comedic style, that the Farrelly brothers should really reassess their careers. Allen is as likable as ever in his many surreal incarnations -- appearing in fifty percent of the sketches -- his ultimate triumph being the oily, Italian play-boy causing a stir when he and his frigid girlfriend par-take of a little outdoor nookie. And even if he is less confident when trying to be socio-satirical, as in the molestation game show, Woody still manages to inject a wit and ingenuity to the proceedings, always carrying off the gags to his trademark self-deprecating style.
However, despite technical assuredness, the finished product borders on the same hit and miss territory that befalls most anthology films, however, it has to be handed to Allen for making a genuinely intelligent movie that basically celebrates boob-gags and outbursts of rampant misogyny. The best policy with 'Everything you always wanted to know...' is to ignore the false starts of the later segments, and howl at the sight of Woody fighting a giant breast ("Don't worry, I know how to handle tits"). Nevertheless, if your idea of sophisticated humour doesn't include bestiality, orgasms, transvestism, homosexuality, ejaculation, perversion or Burt Reynolds, then feel free to give it a miss.