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Academy Award-winner Barbara Kopple directs this documentary portrait of Academy Award and Golden Globe-winner Woody Allen (Annie Hall, Blue Jasmine), seen traveling with friends and fellow musicians during their New Orleans jazz band's 1996 European tour. Allen's relationship with wife Soon Yi Previn is captured on film here for the first time, and others on the European jaunt include Allen's sister Letty Aronson. Followed by press, paparazzi, and gushing admirers, Allen returns home to face a more realistic critical assessment during "the lunch from hell" with his aged parents. Written by
This is Soon-Yi Previn, the notorious Soon-Yi Previn.
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Subtitles credit Letty Aronson and Soon-Li Previn. The band members are credited orally by Woody Allen as he introduces them to an audience. Allen himself is credited by marquees during the trip. See more »
If you thought you had be Jewish or from New York to fully appreciate Woody Allen, this movie proves otherwise.
Documentarian Barbara Kopple took her hand-held camera on Allen's '96 European tour, in which he and his jazz band played a whopping 18 concerts in 23 days. She photographed him everywhere but in the "john": in airplanes, hotel rooms, lobbies, receptions, backstage, onstage, in the streets--everywhere.
His deadpan quips and jousts buoy up what would have been a conventional travelogue. You're never sure whether Allen's being serious or satiric, but one finds one's self laughing at nearly all his comments. He's just an amusing guy.
For comedic reasons, it certainly helps that Woody has one of the funniest faces around--even without his "vanishing creme and beauty gel" he comments is amongst his toilitry. As to his tour, this is a chance to see and hear what's been talked about for years. That is, an example of Woody's playing in that certain lower Manhattan pub where he's tooted his "licorice stick"--even being loyal to that group one year rather than bothering to go pick up an "Oscar."
Playing the clarinet since age 15, Allen admits to practicing two hours daily--a "must," he says, "just to keep the chops in shape." It also helps that his playing is "only a hobby, to have fun." Judging from his New Orleans style jazz performance, he's probably being quite honest.
But he also seems to be bringing some extra-musical attributes to his concerts--a whole range of associations with his past creative efforts. All the laughs, pleasures, joys, frustrations, and sorrows associated with his total body of work seem to be reprised as he--now a genuine icon--stands there, slim of body, pouring his heart out in every selection.
Ably assisted by musicians on the trumpet, trombone, drums, piano, banjo and bass, Allen is clearly the star, appearing in a strictly all-musical format. There are only a few words of introduction and closing sentences from him. The rest is ninety minutes of pure music.
How remarkable are his European followers! They simply love and adore him. They mob him outside his hotel, backstage and through the streets as he walks, taking endless photos ("It's the same photo," he quips). They wave ecstatically at him as he takes gondola rides in Venice. The staid English stand and cheer at the end of his London concerts. Nationalistic Parisians drool over his weak attempts to greet them in French.
Europeans also love the more esoteric Allen films, like "Interiors," which flopped in the US. There's no doubt: Woody Allen is an overseas hero. An added final bonus is Allen with his mom and dad in their NYC apartment, they obviously proud of but publicly reserved about their son's accomplishments. "In spite of the fact that you beat me daily," Allen quips to his mom.
We're fortunate to have this 105-minute documentary for posterity. It may prove increasingly valuable as time goes on.
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