Sleeper, written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman, directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen (Miles Monroe) and Diane Keaton (Luna Schlosser) (1973): Allen’s early days as a comedic filmmaker showed as much influence from the slapstick end of film comedy as they did from the word play of the Marx Brothers or the neurotic, sometimes surreal musings of Allen’s own stand-up act.
Sleeper is a lovely comic dystopia set in the New York of the late 22nd century. 20th-century health-food-store owner Miles Monroe goes in for an ulcer operation and awakens 200 years later, having been frozen after something went wrong with the operation. The Resistance, who thawed him, needs him to help overthrow the Big-Brother-style dictatorship of the U.S. Miles agrees, and the rest of the movie follows him through various misadventures aimed at toppling The Leader.
The Leader’s dictatorship isn’t too threatening, its soldiers and police mostly being bumbling boobs. The Resistance isn’t much better. Along the way, Miles falls in love with 22nd-century poet Luna Schlosser (Diane Keaton), whose poetry is amazingly awful. Allen gets in zingers against himself and various other targets, including the health-food industry (in the future, scientists have discovered that sugar, fat, chocolate and cigarettes are the real health foods. “Have some tobacco. It’s the best thing in the world for you!”, one scientist tells a flabbergasted Monroe.
The sybaritic dystopia of Sleeper (one of Neil Postman’s “pleasure-based dystopias”, the Ur-model of which is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World) occasionally looks a lot like our world. Then again, often it doesn’t. The movie barrels along through its 90-minute length, throwing jokes and pratfalls at the audience and thankfully eschewing sentimentality or a sudden speech about human destiny. The young Keaton is as cute as a button. Highly recommended.