S( RI:I;NnIrreverence of Things Past or the Best-Selling Void &nThe Traps of Well-intentioned Cross-BreedingnA Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy; Written and directed by Woody Allen; AnnOrion Picture.nOn September 29,1662, Samuel Pepys watched a performance by the King’s companynof A Midsummer Night’s Dream. His terse characterization: “The most insipid,nridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.” His first operative term, insipid, can be wellnapplied to Woody Allen’s Film, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, for it is the mostnmawkish of his works to date. But perhaps that’s his objective. Allen is at a difficultnpoint in his career, perhaps one that he has, with unconscious deliberation, gottennhimself into. Allen was born in 193 5, and although he shows signs of age, he still carriesnhimself as a bespectacled young man in search of meaning—or Meaning—to saynnothing of a revelatory one-night stand.nAllen has a natural ability to make people laugh. First a nightclub performer, he venturedninto writing and then film. Still he ^^mm^^^^^^^a^^^^^^^^^^nmade people laugh with what are typi­ncally termed “zany” comedies. On andnon he went through various roles. Itnmight seem that as a result of this productivenoutpouring there would be progression.nBut no, at the end oiManhattann(1979) there was still Woody Allen,nboyish comedian, Annie Hall{911) andnits parcel of Oscars notwithstanding.nSudden transformation of character wasnattempted twice, once htioKManhattannwith Interiors (1978), and once immediatelynafter with Stardust Memoriesn(1980). He tried to become a “serious”nfilmmaker. No good. Allen performednin those attempts as acceptably asnanother American character that carriesnthe same moniker: Woody Woodpecker.nBoth are appreciated for theirnsilliness rather than their depth; theynentertain through light, farcical humor.nWoody Allen is forever to be for moviegoersnwhat he is, who he is: Woody—notnWoodrow or Mr.—Allen.nConsider his situation. He is a comic.nBut now there are many more who arenvying for not exacdy his spot, but onenawfully close—Steve Martin, Bill Murray,nDan Ackroyd. The classroom is fillingnup. Allen is at his best doing onenthing: his classmates pull chairs out fromncontinued on page 40nIn Village Voice, which proudly representsnall subcultural aberrations, onencould find an ad under the headingn”Woody Allen Dreams”: in it a potentialnauthor solicits interviews with peoplenwho have dreamed about Woody Allen.nSounds like a perfect obiter dictum onnthe current dementia of the culturati: ancaricature of deification—the apotheosisnof a twerp. It has something to do withnour time’s inability to distinguish betweenna comedian and a comic. In thenpast, the former endeavored to expressnthe endless and unfathomable variationsnof human ill-adjustment to reality; thenlatter’s quest always was and is to be justnfunny. And to be funny, ail he has to donis to put into operation the mental ornlinguistic jargon of his time or place.nThat’s exactly what the work of Mr. Allennamounts to. With the exception of Lovenand Death, the only movie in which theninterrelation between film and literaturenwas a source of some intellectual introspectionnand amusement, Mr. Allen’snmovies are compendiums of an updated,npseudohighbrow patois endemic to thenurban, white-collar middlebrows withncollege educations and obligatory subscriptionsnto quasi-cultural magazines.nnnThe routine cerebral equipment of anspecimen—male or female—of that socialngroup is a composite of “intellectual”ndirectives from People, PsychologynToday, Rolling Stone and New Yorknmagazines, with moral impulses appropriatednfrom Time and the “Living,” orn”Style,” sections of large metropolitanndailies. By that frame of mind, Mr.nAllen’s fiinniness is equated with paradigmaticnsensibility, if not with thenhuman condition itself, at the same timenbeing worthy only of an endless, ecstaticncackle.nWhat strikes me in his latest accomplishmentnis, first and foremost, the sordidnessnof the tide. The juxtaposition ofnwords “sex” and “comedy” carriesnsomething insistently vulgar, especiallynin light of what has happened to thenformer during the last 20 years. The notionnof comic sex conveys some kind ofndebasement rather than exhilaration,nbut that’s what Mr. Allen seems to benafter: his verbal taste seems to be so anesthetizednthat he appears not to be able tonconnect an English noun to an adjectivenwhich expresses what he wishes to shownwithout resorting to the most trivializedncatchall term of our time. The fact thatnhe tries to attach a semiotic platitudenand vernacular ugliness to a Shakespeareannallusion proves that “twerpiness”nis still at the core of Mr. Allen’s creativenimperative.nHis construction this time was supposednto be a pastoral romp in a post-n^elle epoque style: the frailty of humannsensual propensities and their charms.nWhat materializes on screen is an emptynand uninspiring anecdote about sexualnmaneuvers performed by three couplesnduring a weekend in the country. Thenfeatured characters are three men, whonare rendered with a skill of a provincialncaricaturist, and three women—a liber-ni^^iSiSOnNovember 198Sn