Woody Allen: A Documentary Review (2012)

June 6th, 2012
Author: Meredith Taylor

Robert B Weide

113mins    Documentary feature

Featuring Josh Brolin, Penelupe Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Dick Cavett, Mariel Hemingway, Diane Keaton, Scarlett Johansson and Antonio Banderas.woodyoung

If you dislike reviews swamped with fawning commentary from people you’ve never heard  then you’re going to love this biopic.  Not only is Woody Allen the principle commentator but we also get to hear from Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson and Diane Keaton, all stars in their own right who are warm and complimentary in their musings on the famous auteur.

That it took Robert Weide (Curb Your Enthusiasm) 20 years to persuade Woody Allen to collaborate was not only due to his secretive nature but also testament to Weide’s persistence.  The quality and depth of his research into his subject matter of Allen as an artist and a man is to be commended.  It sensitively tackles his affair with Allen’s adoptive daughter Soon-Yi Previn and although long-time collaborator Mia Farrow is a no-show her effect on his creative output is clearly felt and well-documented.

Starting life as Allen Konigsberg in a poor Brooklyn family emerging from the Depression, it tells how he  was a sensitive but driven boy who was encouraged by his mother on to better things. Soon he was writing and producing gags for stand-up comedy and helping to support the family financially with the help of his sister Hetty who still produces his films.

It emerges that he gradually moved into directing film through screenwriting and after a disastrous time with What’s New Pussycat (1965)  vowed never to lose creative control of his work again.  His first resounding breakthrough as a writer/director was Take the Money and Run (1969). Moving through the ‘oeuvre’ it deals with Annie Hall,  Love and Death, Bullets Over Broadway and Match Point. There’s also extensive footage of his childhood moments and his work on Radio Days, Broadway Danny Rose and Manhatten and the biggest box office success of his career so far, Midnight in Paris.  Did you know that Woody Allen never uses email and that he literally had to be forced onto the stage during his days as a comedian?.  These are some of the insights that Weide gives us in this enthusiastic doco.

Woody Allen’s unique brand of humour can be described as self-deprecating and tentative with a unique sense of comic timing always acutely meditative of his own mortality and the meaning of life.  Fans will love this comprehensive study which gives deserved gravitas to the life of a highly modest man who never really takes his own work that seriously.woodyold

Meredith Taylor ©

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