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Zelig (1983)

PG  |   |  Comedy  |  15 July 1983 (USA)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 29,122 users  
Reviews: 102 user | 53 critic

"Documentary" about a man who can look and act like whoever he's around, and meets various famous people.

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Title: Zelig (1983)

Zelig (1983) on IMDb 7.8/10

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Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
Patrick Horgan ...
The Narrator (voice)
John Buckwalter ...
Marvin Chatinover ...
Stanley Swerdlow ...
Paul Nevens ...
Howard Erskine ...
George Hamlin ...
Ralph Bell ...
Richard Whiting ...
Will Hussung ...
Other Doctor (as Will Hussong)
Robert Iglesia ...
Eli Resnick ...
Edward McPhillips ...
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Storyline

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 <as.idc@forsythe.stanford.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Comedy

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

15 July 1983 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Identity Crisis and Its Relationship to Personality Disorder  »

Filming Locations:

 »

Box Office

Gross:

$11,800,000 (USA)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

 »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Saul Bellow:  The novelist as himself. See more »

Goofs

The speaking person in his 60s in one of the modern interviews in the film is subtitled as "Former SS-Obergruppenführer Oswald Pohl". If the interviews were conducted in the early 1980s, the person is evidently too young; the real Pohl was born in June 1892, so he would have been in his late 80s/early 90s at the time - of course if he had not been hanged for war crimes in 1951. See more »

Quotes

Bruno Bettelheim: The question of whether Zelig was a psychotic or merely neurotic was a question that was endlessly discussed among his doctors. Now I myself felt his feelings were really not all that different from the normal, what one would call the well-adjusted, normal person, only carried to an extreme degree, to an extreme extent. I myself felt that one could really think of him as the ultimate conformist.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Jeopardy!: Episode #26.181 (2010) See more »

Soundtracks

Leonard the Lizard
(1983)
Composed by Dick Hyman
Sung by Bernie Kuce, Steve Clayton and Tony Wells
See more »

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User Reviews

 
"Identity Crisis and Its Relationship to Personality Disorder "
25 May 2006 | by (Virginia, USA) – See all my reviews

One of the most sophisticated, cleverest, funniest, exquisitely shot and edited, scored, and acted movies ever made, "Zelig" is a masterpiece and astounding work even for Woody Allen whose mediocre movies are way above the regular Hollywood fares.

With the modest running time less than 80 minutes, this mockumentary tells the story of a "human chameleon", Leonard Zelig, Leonard the Lizard who possessed an extraordinary ability to transform himself in anyone he met (or should I say, an extraordinary ability possessed him?).

Leonard is a shy, little, meek Jewish man whose rare personality disorder consists of not having his own personality at all and successfully and effortlessly adapting any personality he came close to and fitting perfectly to any surroundings. His skin turns black when he is with the Black people, with the Native Americans, he became one; attending the dinner with the intellectuals, he speaks brilliantly with F.S. Fitzgerald, when on the baseball field, he is Babe Ruth. The meeting with an intelligent and compassionate psychiatrist, Dr. Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow) will begin the slow and long process for Zelig of searching and finding his own personality and possibility for love and happiness. The movie provides laughs and smiles but it also makes the viewer think of more serious subjects. Are we all have a Zelig inside? Don't we all want to be liked and try to adapt to our surroundings to feel comfortable? The movie can also be viewed as the meditation on the nature of the acting ability. While watching "Zelig", I kept thinking of a book I read recently. One of the characters was a great actor who had the similar to Zelig's disorder - he had no personality at all until he was given a part to act on stage. That Actor made the best and most convincing and complex Shakespeare's heroes - he was a brilliant reflective Hamlet but his greatest success was tragic Othello. The actor's transformation to Othello was so real that he acted it at home with his wife whom he suspected in cheating - he played his role perfectly with the same as in the play results. He ended up in the asylum where he could not act but he was allowed to read...Dostoevsky's novel "The Possessed" from which he chose to adapt the personality of Nikolai Stavrogin with rather unpredictable results. When his doctor finally realized what happened, he took all books with the exception of "The Idiot". Finally, the actor became a gentle and kind Prinz Myshkin, and that was the end of book.

Both, the book and the movie "Zelig" made me think of the price the artists pay to achieve perfection in their art. Are they vampires sucking the life out of their victims only to use them as characters for their acting roles? Is that the ultimate price the artist is paying for being a great artist? Does he need lives and souls of others to be able to create? This is one of many subjects "Zelig" makes you think about.

Allen seamlessly weds Black and white newsreel footage with his humorous but deep and fascinating tale allowing Zelig to be exactly where and when History was made. Using special lenses to give the movie the old style, mixing his own footage with the real documentaries, including his favorite music, dances, feeling perfectly forever gone era, Woody recreates The Roaring 20Th with breathtaking authenticity.

M:IWIHSIIT - according to my new grading system, a Masterpiece, I wish I had seen in the theater


16 of 21 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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