Iconic writer, director, actor, comedian and musician Woody Allen allowed his life and creative process to be documented on-camera for the first time. With this unprecedented access, Emmy-winning, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert B. Weide followed the notoriously private film legend over a year and a half to create the ultimate film biography. "Woody Allen: A Documentary" chronicles Allen's career - from teen writer to Sid Caesar's TV scribe, from stand-up comedian to award-winning writer-director averaging one film-per-year for more than 40 years. Exploring Allen's writing habits, casting, directing, and relationship with his actors first-hand, new interviews with A-listers, writing partners, family and friends provide insight and backstory to the usually inscrutable filmmaker. Written by
When the history of cinema is written a hundred years from now, Woody Allen's name will pop up quite a few times. Actor. Writer. Director. Comedian. The quintessential Jewish-American man. From Seinfeld characters to Family Guy to The Simpsons, so much of American pop culture is littered with characters based off the persona that Allen immortalised.
But in Woody Allen: A Documentary, documentarian Robert B. Weide seeks to get inside the mind of this endlessly parodied, forcibly stereotyped individual. Allen is his usual self-deprecating Jewish-American self, but it's the supporting cast – Diane Keaton, Naomi Watts, Scarlett Johansson, et al. – who really paint the best picture. We learn about Allen's directing techniques; what made him such a magnetic 'leading man'; and how his personal life affected (or didn't, really) his professional life.
As all movie fans will know, Allen is responsible for some of the greatest movies of the modern era. Annie Hall is constantly cited as a great Hollywood classic, as are other accomplishments like Hannah And Her Sisters and Manhattan. The documentary moves chronologically through his back catalogue, discussing his intentions about each movie, the filmmaking process, and the critical reception. You listen to the cast, his family, and Allen himself discuss just how much of himself was present in his movies. What I loved most about the film is that it doesn't pander to Allen. Yes, this is a documentary about the man, so it does celebrate his brilliance as an artist. But Weide doesn't hold back in exploring the mistakes he made, both in his personal and professional life. In particular, his relationship with cinematic muse Mia Farrow is chronicled, painting Woody as a very conflicted and somewhat selfish man.
What you take away from this documentary is appreciation for what Allen has achieved, and what he has brought to modern cinema. To continue to beat to his own drum at a time when studios have pigeonholed directors so much is admirable, especially when he's making one film a year. It's so easy (and so romantic) to see cinema as an artform. Woody Allen shows that it is a skill, a technique constantly being honed. Good stuff.
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