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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
According to an interview with Terry Zwigoff in 2010, he was originally approached to direct the film, but turned it down after he met with Woody Allen. He wanted to make a documentary about other aspects of his life, not just his tour of Europe, and Allen declined. See more »
[On why he likes playing blues]
There's nothing there between you and the pure feeling of playing. There's no cerebral part to it.
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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 »
Witty and enjoyable but you need to be a reasonable fan of Woody Allen
Woody Allen and the New Orleans Jazz Band set out on a tour of eighteen cities in seven countries in Europe. Accompanying them is Barbara Kopple, who has been given total access to the musician and filmmaker Allen as he does the shows and the time in between. The end result is a documentary that takes in Allen's love for this rather `crude' form of jazz but also allows for some insights into his personal life, his relationship with Soon Yi and his famous obsessions and neuroses.
I bought this film as a Woody Allen fan and as someone who, while not a fan, certainly enjoys a bit of old fashioned jazz music on a hot sunny night. For both these reasons I enjoyed this film, even though the description of it as a `documentary' is maybe not the most fitting as it implies a certain amount of probing into the subject. Rather than digging, Kopple basically just seems to point the camera and leave it running. She doesn't really ask any questions of Allen or his family and seems content to let him and his companions just talk freely - it made me wonder how many countless hours of footage she must have shot to come up with what she uses here. So if you are looking for insight in Allen then you won't get it here. Likewise, if you are looking for a great deal of discussion or insight into the music then you'll be let down; in this area Kopple also mostly just films the band playing.
That is not to say that the film is bad, because it isn't, but there isn't a great deal of substance to it unless you are Woody Allen fan. As a fan, there isn't a great deal of insight into Allen's life or situation - the conclusion we are left with is no more of an understanding than we started with, that he is a witty little man who is filled with little complexes and neuroses while also being a very private person. The value of the film is that we actually get to see that during the course of the movie. Allen is funny and quite relaxed but a `real' documentary would have pushed harder into the darker issues of Allen's life - many viewers will be annoyed by how the film just accepts Soon Yi without ever really asking any questions or even hinting at the many issues behind their relationship.
Overall I enjoyed this film but then I like Woody Allen's humour and was interested to seeing if his onscreen personae is similar to his real life character. However it isn't really insightful and it is only a scene near the end with Allen and his parents (yeah - I was surprised they were still alive too!) that gives a little background and is interesting. A light, witty and quite enjoyable film but I can't imagine that anyone other than fans of Woody Allen and jazz will get a great deal from this.
8 of 16 people found this review helpful.
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