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Fictional documentary about the life of human chameleon Leonard Zelig, a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920s due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him. Clever editing places Zelig in real newsreel footage of Woodrow Wilson, Babe Ruth, and others. Written by
Scott Renshaw <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At one point, the narrator mentions that there is a photo of Leonard Zelig as Pagliacci. "Pagliacci" is the Italian plural for "clowns". The correct way to say it would be " a photo of Leonard Zelig as Pagliaccio", or "a photo of Leonard Zelig as Canio (the leading male character, who plays Pagliaccio in a play-within-the-play in the opera "Pagliacci".). See more »
Who was this Leonard Zelig that seemed to create such diverse impressions everywhere? All that was known of him was that he was the son of a Yiddish actor named Morris Zelig, whose performance as Puck in the Orthodox version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" was coolly received. The Elder Zelig's second marriage is marked by constant violent quarreling. So much so that although the family lives over a bowling alley, it is the bowling alley that complains of noise. As a boy, Leonard is frequently ...
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Woody can be clever. Woody can be funny. And when Woody's clever AND funny, you get "Zelig".
Telling the story of Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen, who else?) who transforms himself chameleon-like into anyone just to get people to like him, he finds himself the object of on-going observation from a kind doctor (Farrow), who eventually falls for him.
But lest you think this is simply a love story, there are also pot-shots at fame, fads, the 1930s (!!), medical conventions, product cash-ins and the joys and pitfalls of celebrity.
Then there's the sheer joy of the technical wizardry that allows Woody's Zelig to stand alongside such figures as Josephine Baker, Brickhouse, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, "Red" Grange, Al Capone, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lou Gehrig and Fanny Brice. This is the same type of FX visible in "Forrest Gump", and eleven years before the fact! Nice going.
But you haven't lived till you've seen Woody trying to blend in at an Adolph Hitler speech.
There's a lot of slapstick but there's also a lot of great lines ("I have to council a group of chronic masturbators", Zelig complains, "and if I'm late they'll start without me.") Classic.
But at the center of it all is Woody himself, just like his Zelig character, wanting only to be liked, if not loved. He succeeds. Once you see "Zelig", you'll love it.
Eight stars, plus one star more for watching Woody be serenaded by Fanny Brice. He's the cat's pajamas!
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