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>
Cinematographer Gordon Willis has said of this film: ""There was a point when I thought we were never going to finish, a point when I thought I was going to go nuts. I have never worked so hard at making something difficult look so simple". See more »
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 »
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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Leapin' lizards! This film is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.
"Zelig" was a revelation in 1983, an utterly ingenious faux-documentary, without any precedent, at least not on this scale. Hilarious then, it still is today. That quick glimpse you get of the all-Hasidic production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is priceless. It gives renewed meaning to "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"
Allen's technique is extraordinary. "Zelig" has the best bogus documentary footage quite probably since "Citizen Kane".
As the film urges, everyone should "Do the Chameleon", by seeing "Zelig". Woody Allen creates a trenchant comment on people's desire for conformity: "Everybody, go chameleon." We all tend to do that to some degree, but it's not usually so amusing. Try to blend in with the crowd rushing out to find "Zelig" on video.
It is probably worth noting that a Jewish Nazi is not as ridiculous a stretch as Woody makes it seem. Reinhard Heydrich, the vicious organizer of the Final Solution, fell into that category. The top Nazis were all misfits in one way or another.
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