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 <email@example.com>
In one of Leonard Zelig's guises, Woody Allen as Zelig appears in black-face in this film as a black jazz musician. The ever-changing Zelig is also seen portraying a number of other nationalities including Asian, Native-American indigenous Indian, Aryan, (Asian) Indian, Hasidic and Scottish. See more »
Last name of Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld is misspelled (Zeigfeld) on title card for Pathe newsreel. See more »
He was the guy who smashed my car up. It was brand new. Then he backed-up over my mother's wrist. She's elderly... and uses her wrist a lot.
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...as well as among the better half of his filmography. It does drag a bit and the earlier parts occasionally ramble too much, but Zelig is still a truly great film. Technically Zelig looks fabulous, one of his better-looking and most interesting early films along with Manhattan and The Purple Rose of Cairo. And it's actually more interesting in this regard than either of those films, because among Allen's films it's his most unique and ground-breaking. As far as I can recall, none of Allen's other films use the technique of inserting a character(in this case Leonard Zelig) into existing footage like newsreels and archive photos, and so cleverly. Well, What's Up Tiger Lily? had a dubbed over commentary over an existing mystery film but with mixed results and that's not really the same thing. The music suits the period brilliantly and gives the sense that you are there, it's great-sounding and memorable too. The screenplay is among Allen's cleverest, it's laugh-out-loud funny but also very poignant with the romantic parts really sweetly done. It's also very intelligent and has a lot to say on the issues that it deals with. The characters are not as neurotic as in some of Allen's other films, though they are unmistakably Woody Allen. They feel real, and I did find myself relating to Zelig in his struggles and desire to fit in(that was exactly the case with me in school), the characters' relationships and chemistry were more than believable. The story is heartfelt, funny and makes great use of his mockumentary style, there are some rambling moments but not to an interminable degree. Allen directs thoughtfully as ever, and he gives a great performance that is among his most physical, energetic and relatable. Mia Farrow also gives one of her most sympathetic performances, and is touching in doing so. In conclusion, a great film that deserves more attention, despite the high rating and reviews holding it in great esteem elsewhere people talk about Annie Hall, Crimes and Misdemeanours and Manhattan as well as more recent stuff like Midnight in Paris and Match Point but Zelig is rarely talked about and that's a shame because people are missing out on Woody Allen at his most unique. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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