Woody Allen: A Documentary
- Director: Robert B. Weide
- Genre: Documentary
- Cert: 15A
- Details: US / 113mins
Early on, when How To Lose Friends And Alienate People director Robert B. Weide, scurries through the famous faces, a taster of the multitude of names that queue up to lavish praise here, hope is raised that this documentary was going to be more than a hagiographic trawl through the director's work. There is something of a dissenter in the ranks: Muriel Hemmingway, Allen's co-star in Manhattan, dares to suggest, "He's had a few clunkers." What was that, Muriel? Are you daring to suggest that Allen's quality Vs quantity will be put to Allen, that for the past fifteen years he's made as many good movies as bad ones? Hmm.
As Allen brings us on a tour of his childhood stomping ground of Brooklyn - the old movie houses, schoolyards and stoops - Weide explores how these places, and how Allen felt about them, influenced his films. As he talks and reminisces, the director becomes candid about his family and his career. His reasons for wanting total control of his work after What's New, Pussycat?; why he felt Annie Hall was the perfect time to turn serious; why the Bergman-esque Interiors was attempted; and why he disliked Manhattaan to such a degree that he offered Universal a freebie if they didn't want to release it. All fascinating stuff.
Fascinating but surface only. There are moments that threaten to go deeper and hint at what this documentary could have been. The Mia Farrow/Soon Yi situation is briefly addressed and an aunt regrets being so strict with a young Allen because he might have grown up "softer, more warmer," suggesting that Allen is neither of these things. The quality/quantity issue finds its way back into the conversation: a producer suggests to Allen that he make a movie every two years rather than annually, while Allen says he fires them out so that "every once in a while one will work." These are moments any documentary maker worth their salt ought to base their documentary on but having Woody Allen front and centre it would be tough to really get under the fingernails. Best be an overview of his career up to this point, then, a two-hour episode of This Is Your Life. As This Is Your Life Goes, Woody Allen: A Documentary is top notch.
It's 70s heavy, which might pacify the purists; the 80s and 90s whizz by and it's as if the 00s didn't exist at all. At one point, Weide skips from 1999's Sweet And Lowdown to 2010's You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, only briefly tracking back to mention 2005's Match Point, a personal favourite of Allen's.
Those looking for more in depth knowledge about the director, look elsewhere; those looking for a Wikipedia version will find much to enjoy.
Review by Gavin Burke | 15:29 | Friday 1st June 2012 | Movie Review
Woody Allen remains one of cinema's most consistent, distinctive and unchanging directors. This illuminating and thoroughly enjoyable documentary gives us a rare glimpse into the life of the man himself. Starting with his childhood upbringing in Brooklyn and his early days doing stand-up comedy, it then moves through his extensive body of directorial work starting with Take The Money And Run and running right up-to-date with Midnight In Paris. Peppered with interviews from many familiar faces from both Allen's films and peers like Martin Scorsese, it's a warmly affectionate tribute. Allen is humble in his own interviews, not really understanding why he gets so much attention. Given that he doesn't normally allow Making-Of crews on his films, this documentary gives us a rare glimpse behind the wizard's curtain. Allen still types on his old typewriter and cuts and pastes his scripts together the old-fashioned way. Now 76, there's no sign of Allen slowing down. Whether you're a Woody Allen fan or not, this is well-worth watching.Posted 10:55 | Sat 9th Jun 2012
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