"American Masters" Woody Allen: A Documentary (TV Episode 2011) Poster

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Treat for Movie Buffs
Larry Silverstein27 September 2012
I've just seen the DVD version of the documentary, which originally aired on PBS, on American Masters. The DVD is 2 parts in total of about three and a half hours.

This wonderful documentary, directed by Robert B. Weide, traces the life and career of the movie master Woody Allen. The early footage of Allen's stand-up comic days is extremely funny, as are the archival clips of Allen as he began to appear on national shows such as Steve Allen, Johhny Carson, and Dick Cavett. As he progressed into movies, the film tracks the stages of his early comic movies such as "Take the Money and Run"(when I first noticed Allen) and "Bananas", into more serious fare such as "Hannah and Her Three Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors", as well as his more recent movies made in Europe such as "Match Point", "Wimbledon" and "Midnight in Paris"

What I found particularly interesting was Allen explaining why he did certain movies, the great as well as the clunkers. He explains what his thought processes were, how he writes them, and what goes into directing them. The film is also chocked with interviews of fellow writers and collaborators, actors and actresses he has worked with, and certain film critics. Also, there is a good amount of time devoted to hearing from his sister, as to what Woody was like as boy and their relationship today.

I've followed Allen's career for decades, the good and the bad,and I felt this film gave me a real insight into what makes Woody Allen tick. Plus it is so packed with vintage footage of TV and film that I was engrossed despite the length of the movie.
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Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012)
TheDelusionist31 May 2013
Woody Allen is one of the most prolific and important filmmakers working today. His movies mostly revolve around the grand subjects of Life, Love and Art. Even when he puts out a sub par film, he is still interesting to watch: "There's always something about them", like Martin Scorsese himself puts it.

The documentary opens with Woody Allen's trademark title names; written in the iconic Windsor font, with playful jazz music in the background accompanying images of Brooklyn shot à la Midnight in Paris. Next up are a series of interviews, alternated to scenes from Woody's films. The filmmakers managed to interview Woody's mother, his sister and manager and of course Woody himself, while also showing us opinions from actresses and actors that starred in his movies, mainly Diane Keaton (his first muse). His long time collaborators and producers also voice their opinion, mostly praise, and there's even a priest.

The documentary does a good job, in that it is about Woody as a person and as an artist. He also has most of the screen time and rightfully so. The first half of the film is Woody's origin story, from writing jokes for the news paper and doing stand-up, to him constantly being on national television, getting a writing gig, over which he had no artistic control and then finally getting a chance to write and direct his first feature film on his own terms. The second half of the documentary focuses on his hits and misfires throughout his career, while ending on the upbeat note of his 2011 box office hit.

Being a huge fan of his I couldn't help but love this documentary. It's fully of little trivia and tidbits you might not know about even if you're a loyal follower of his. I certainly learned a lot of new things about him. I didn't know much about his private life, I had only read a very confusing and mostly false expose on him (I believe it was in Time magazine), and so this was refreshing. It was great to hear the man himself discuss his work and learning that one of his favorite films (from his own catalogue) is Stardust Memories, inspired by Federico Fellini's masterpiece 8½, or how he really still uses a typewriter to write all of his scripts and many other fun little quirks. While it is interesting that they had a priest, he doesn't really get into any religious talk, which seems like a wasted opportunity, since most of Woody Allen's films ask big questions like "Is there a God?" and "Is there an afterlife?". The documentary is also very standard in its execution, which is not a fault per se, but it would be great to see a new vision for a change, especially in the visual department. All in all though the film succeeds in that it makes you want to re-visit Woody Allen's classics like Annie Hall, Manhattan and Husbands and Wives.

I would recommend this documentary especially if you're a Woody Allen fan, if you're not there's still the great story of a self-made man being told. At the end of the day it's about his life and his art. In his own words: "Issues of what life is about and why we're here and why it's so painful and relationships between the human being and his experience and human loneliness, that never gets resolved, and so it's of constant interest to me".
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A revealing and entertaining portrayal
Jafar Iqbal6 November 2012
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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Terrific Documentary on a Genius
Michael_Elliott21 November 2011
Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)

**** (out of 4)

Remarkable documentary taking a look at the life and career of Woody Allen who just this year scored the biggest hit of his career. This documentary is pretty much the perfect timing as there's never been a time where Allen has been so popular in terms of a general audience so hopefully this film will have fans of MIDNIGHT IN Paris checking out some of his other work. Clocking in at 191-minutes, this mammoth documentary starts off covering Allen as a child and then moving to his first few writing jobs and then it's off to the TV, the stage and finally the movies. With such a large running time it's easy to say that this thing pretty much covers everything with only a few acting-only films like SCENES FROM A MALL not getting mentioned. I think this is an incredibly important film because as Allen fans know he's not a fan of "extras" so his films pretty much get released without the fan getting to know much but this documentary allows Allen to comment on most of the movies but we also get some nice behind the scenes footage, promotional interviews and all new interviews with the man himself. I think another major thing is that we get to hear from the majority of his actors with the one exception being Mia Farrow. Just about everyone else that you'd want to hear from are on hand including Diane Keaton who shares some great stories. The controversy about the Farrow situation and HUSBANDS AND WIVES is looked at in an open manor and this includes Allen talking about it. Some of his lesser quality films are mentioned as well but if you've seen the documentary WOODY ALLEN: A LIFE IN FILM then you already know that the director hates most of his movies so it's funny hearing him constantly put himself and his talent down. The documentary also gives us some insight with an interview from his sister and mother. One of the most interesting aspects of the film has Allen taking us to his hometown where he walks around pointing out his first home, his movie theater and various other places that eventually inspired bits and pieces of his movies. Fans of Allen are certainly going to enjoy every second of this documentary and if you're unfamiliar with him I think it's going to perfectly explain why the man is so special.
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Harry T. Yung31 March 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Just as people either love or hate Woody Allen, they would, I imagine, either love or hate this documentary about Woody Allen. But let's get the logics straight. I'm not talking about people who hate Woody Allen; they simply won't watch this film, period. As to people who love him, I am just giving it the benefit of the doubt that, maybe, 0.00001% of those who have watched this film would hate it. But certainly not more.

This is a simple, endearing documentary that follows Allen's life from childhood to the present, rich with anecdotes from a rich assembly of people who know him (from intimately to not-so-intimately). As expected, there are lots of clips from his forty directed movies to-date, funny and poignant, but mostly funny. No surprises; just two hours of delightful time with the auteur who never even tried to be one.

The background music is also beautiful, with languid Moonlight Serenade (from his "Stardust memories") with a reprise later, cheerful Begin the Beguine, and the most romantically rousing passage from Rhapsody in Blue (as heard in the poignant conclusion of "Manhattan").

There are of course quotes from Allen aplenty: witty, insightful to outright silly. The one that I like best, profound in the simplest way, is his honest view about film awards, which he suggests are more about "the most favorite" than "the best". With track and field, he cites as example, you can easily identify the best because results are quantifiable. No so with a piece of work of art.
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Woody Allen: A Documentary - portrait of an artist
Galina30 December 2011
I admire Woody Allen as a man of many talents, a writer, comedian, musician and filmmaker. His best films have everything I look for in a comedy (or dramedy, he is especially good in making them) - brilliance, wit, clever writing, hilarious and sinister twist in the plot, amazing performances, authentic feel of the era and great musical score. I admire his respect for the audience: "I never write down to them. I always assume that they're all as smart as I am... if not smarter." For someone who has been a fan of Allen's works for many years and seen every movie he was a part of, whether as a writer/ director, star or all of the above, Woody Allen: A Documentary is the next best thing to watching Allen's films. I was entertained, learned something new about my favorite film-maker, and once again was fascinated with his productive and unique career that has spanned over six decades. The DVDs with Allen's films don't usually include a lot of bonus materials, such as making of behind the scenes; so, watching the documentary filled with the clips from many Allen's films and listening to the interviews with the stars have added to better understanding of the man behind 40 + films many of which belong to the best ever made.

Allen is known as a multi-talented artist - the stand-up comedian, musician, actor and, of course, a film director. But the documentary confirmed what I've assumed already - that he considers himself primarily a writer who has been writing for a living since he was 15 and started composing the jokes and one-liners for a local paper making $75 a week - not bad for a teenager back in the 1950s. At the age of 19, he started writing scripts for the most popular television shows of the time. Allen has authored the Broadway plays, the books of prose and non-fiction, and the scripts to every movie he ever made for which he has been awarded 14 Oscar nominations in the category Best Original Screenplay, more than any film-maker ever. I was genially moved when Woody confessed that all these years he's been using the old typewriter Olympia and he is not going to change it for one of latest and fastest computers with the useful word processing programs. He proudly announced that he is a very fast typist.

For two evenings, in two parts of the documentary, each 1,5 hours long, Allen himself, his younger sister-producer Letty Aronson, his friends, business associates, and the famous, respectable and talented members of the prestigious "I've acted in Allen's film(s)" actors, gave the grateful audiences the insight into the phenomenon called Woody Allen, his persona, his works, his unique place in the cultural life of America, his origins, influences, his Muses, and his work ethics. Allen came out in the interviews which are more valuable because they are rare as a moving, deprecated, very clever, funny and charming person. I know many would not share my opinion but I am a loyal fan, and the documentary was made for people like me. If you have problems with the certain facts from Allen's biography you should spend three hours with something else.

Watching the documentary, I was happy to learn that Allen has good genes :) - his father lived to be 100 and his mother died when she was 96 - big chance that Woody would keep writing/directing for many years to come and never lose his wit, sense of humor and incredible talent and lust for life. What is 76 for him? Just a small number. He makes me a happy viewer, always has and I wish him long years of happy and productive life.
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Personal, not too long, funny and interesting
Niklas Pivic15 August 2012
A long - the three-hour version must surely be better than the shortened edited-for-cinema version - but engaging and well-made documentary about Woody Allen, one of my favourite directors. It makes chronological little jumps, but all good, delving from his growing up in New York to where he is today, from being a joke-writer for US columns to doing his own stand-up comedy (for which he is still grossly underestimated), to script-writing, acting and directing. The bit about him being an "actor's director" is really inspirational. He's had ups and downs, his marriages and scandals are a bit on display; him being married to his "former" daughter is toned down. His writing process is envisaged, actors and producers interviewed and it's all personal, never showy. Allen found out that "Manhattan" had won the Oscar for best film by reading about it in the paper the day after. So, all in all, very nice and recommendable.
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A truly superb look into the life and career of Woody Allen.
TxMike15 February 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I found this on Netflix streaming movies, I have always had a sort of love/hate relationship with his movies, I really love some of them (e.g. 'Purple Rose of Cairo' and 'Midnight in Paris') but really, really hate most of the extended slapstick films (e.g.'Bananas' and 'Sleeper'). Part of my dislike was because of Woody's persona, most of his films I like don't have him in them, and I viewed characters he played as just an extension of himself.

But this documentary cleared a lot of that up. The Woody we see in character is Woody the actor, in reality quite different from the relaxed Woody we see in interviews. In real life he appears to be a lot less neurotic, and actually quite friendly and charming.

The film has a number of contributors, including many actors who have been in his movies over the years. But the two main contributors are Woody Allen himself and his sister, producer Letty Aronson . It is clear they have a good relationship.

If I were to summarize Woody Allen very briefly, he grew up as a naturally funny person who loved the stage and the movies, grew up wishing he could do that himself, then when he got a break went out and did it himself. He enjoys the process, conceiving an idea, writing the story, and making a film. He doesn't read reviews, in fact the movie being in theaters seems to be of little interest to him, as well as whether it makes any money or not. He just enjoys the process.

As he speaks of his own movies, he has no illusions of grandeur. Of his New York movies he says the future lasting value they will have is providing interesting scenes around the city. He doesn't mind making a failure, in fact he expects most people will not like most of his movies. 'Manhattan' was his first big hit, 'Midnight in Paris' his most recent hit, yet he didn't have any particular expectations of either.

One of the most telling scenes in the entire documentary was of Woody playing clarinet with the band in his usual Monday night gig at the restaurant. He played jazz with typical reckless abandon and, when the music stopped and the audience applauded, all Woody did was hold his instrument and sort of look downward at the floor. He wasn't acting, he was not playing for any anticipation of audience reaction, he just plays because he enjoys the process. It is the same way with his movies.

Here is a film portrait of a man who has pretty well lived his life doing exactly what he wanted to do and is content in his old age. However, since his parents both lived to very old ages, and Woody takes care of himself, we may be treated with his one-movie-a-year habit for another 20 or 30 years.
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The best of Woody Allen
Red-Barracuda23 July 2012
This documentary may not go too far below the surface of Woody Allen's persona but for fans of his films it offers a lot to enjoy. It looks at his career from his earliest days as a joke writer via stand-up comedian on to his film career up until his biggest commercial success Midnight in Paris. It was interesting to see the young Allen, who looked surprisingly ungeeky it has to be said. And it was good to see the path that led to his talents ending up in cinema. But the real pleasure of this documentary is in simply revisiting so many of his films. Virtually all of his movies from the period that covers Take the Money and Run to Shadows and Fog are represented with clips. While, several other key movies after this are featured too, although perhaps though it would have been better if more of his unsuccessful films were shown as a point of comparison. But time restraints do limit things I guess – I saw the shorter theatrical cut – and it was really just fun revisiting the good ones to be honest.

For the reasons mentioned above, it would probably be fair to say that this is a documentary primarily aimed at people who are Allen fans to begin with. The wealth of well-chosen clips really is very good, while the selection of talking heads add good value. It's basically a pure celebration of Allen's work and it does well to show the sheer volume of quality he has produced over the years. Very enjoyable.
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An iconic director/writer/actor shares his creative process
Kicino28 October 2013
It is one of the few documentaries that I watch for the second time. I did that because a) Woody is really funny and I cannot get enough b) He speaks so fast that I have to go again and munch on what he really says. And I am glad I did!

It is such a pleasure to see how Woody evolved from a timid teenager to a prolific screen writer/director/actor who never seems to run out of ideas and energy. Woody was positioned like a friend taking you to where he grew up and where he was bullied and how he came up with all his gags. Then we are shown him performing the saxophone. What a versatile artist!

It was fascinating seeing how he has been using the same manual typewriter since he was 17. Excellent editing in showing us how he stores and retrieves his ideas and how he manually cut and paste his writing.

Other than letting the director speak about himself and showing us around, we also see how other actresses/actors and his family talk about him. We also have a little glimpse of how they interact on the set, not to mention various clips of his signature movies. Woody seems to have this talent of letting actresses relax and blossom under his direction, which he encourages a lot of empowerment thus ownership. It must be rewarding and satisfying working with him.

The only shortcoming of this production, if I may say, is the absence of Mia Farrow who obviously plays an important role in his life and his movies. Otherwise, it was such a pleasure getting a closer and personal look at this important icon of our era.
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Only OK
FrostyChud5 June 2012
I used to be a major Woody Allen fan. This documentary was disappointing for a couple of reasons. First of all, it doesn't go deep enough. It's a little fluffy. We want to hear more about Woody's private life. Woody also seems to have lost the verve he used to have. He looks and sounds old, tired, and boring. He doesn't reveal anything. You sense that he's not making any particular effort to tell the truth...just rehashing private talking points. It feels almost like a press release.

Woody Allen married his stepdaughter, whom he first met as a little girl. Let's say that again: Woody Allen cheated on the woman he had built a life with with her teenage daughter. Any biography that does not confront this is fluff.

The man appears to have been swallowed up by his famous neuroses.

Ultimately we learn nothing new here...it's nice to see where he grew up and nice to see the old photos but that's about it.
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Compartmental 20th/21st century man: well-loved & well-loathed.
punishmentpark25 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
A lot of interesting stuff I didn't know about a legendary director (of whom I've only seen about seven or so films so far, including the key works 'Manhattan', 'Annie Hall' and 'Match Point'), over which the awkward history concerning the relationship Allen began as a 59 year old with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter of 19 years old casts a few dark shadows. I shall say, for that he has been well-loathed. Moving onto well-loved:

Learning about the way actors are cast, how a script is delivered to the main star of the film, or how Allen prefers a bag of money without any questions so he can do his work; it's all quite intriguing and funny. Still, in these 3 1/2 hours, I find that Allen himself talks too little, and what he does say is often evasive (through jokes, mostly), or simply untrue. For example: he says that actors ask him how they did (in a particular scene) and that he will always respond nicely, without criticism (and actors state that he emphasizes that they can change things in their lines if they'd like), but (for instance) when in fact we see him on set with Scarlett Johansson, he says (I paraphrase): 'Yes, that's good, but...' (then follows his criticism). Not that there's anything wrong with that, but why doesn't he just admit to this? And why don't the other actors say this? Or is this exactly Robert B. Weide's point when he just a little later shows actor Larry David, saying (I paraphrase again): 'Make no mistake. Woody gets what he wants.' ...? I'll assume the latter.

Then, there is the historical line, starting with Allen's background (birth, school, family), his early career (writing jokes after school for money, choosing a 'stage name', adopting glasses to create an image, getting on stage as a comedian, eventually being practically prostituted to make him a household name) and finally his career in filmmaking and how he from the get-go understands he needs total control of his cinematic babies if he's ever going to be happy with this newfound craft. And so on - all a lot of fun to learn about.

The chapter that returns throughout the documentary about his musical career is also intriguing, especially when one sees him blowing frantically on his clarinet, or how so many things around it (his musical performances) must make way for it. I simply like that.

All in all, I had a good time watching it, but I personally could have done with less chatter from the people around him (except for probably his sister-producer) and more from the man himself. So, I'm looking forward to seeing 'Woody Allen: A Life in Films', but only after I've seen the movies he talks about in there first.

7 out of 10.
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Cosmoeticadotcom21 June 2012
Warning: Spoilers
I watched the recent PBS American Masters documentary on Woody Allen, Woody Allen: A Documentary, online, and it was surely a disappointment. It covered, in its three and a half hours, many of his films, his early life and break into show business, but it offered almost nothing of depth- oddly recapitulating the flaws of Barbara Kopple's 1998 documentary on the same subject, Wild Man Blues. In a sense, the film gives the best representation of the critical cribbing that is killing most film criticism, by having vapid and flat out bad critics opine on subjects they do not understand, but it does little to give one a better understanding of the filmmaker, for the so-called talking head 'experts' it relies on are the dense and pretentious film professor Annette Insdorf, the lifeless hack film critic Richard Schickel, the ebulliently vacuous film critic Leonard Maltin, a film critic priest named Robert Lauder, who utters…well, nothing of value about Hannah And Her Sisters, a number of Allen's co-stars and actors, who burble on cluelessly, and, worst of all, utterly unknown schlock filmmaker and critic, F.X. Feeney, who displays he has absolutely no clue about films, in general, much less Allen's, in particular. The much better insights into Allen's life and art come from his non-screen cohorts: comic and talk show host Dick Cavett, managers Jack Rollins and Charles Joffe, cinematographer Gordon Willis, and co-writers Mickey Rose and Marshall Brickman. The only other filmmaker of note to appear on screen is Martin Scorsese and he mostly rambles on about how his New York and Allen's are like visions from two different worlds. Well, duh, Marty. Exactly how and why is that is never broached by Weide.

Nonetheless, there are worse ways to spend 210 minutes. The problem is, there are almost as many ways to better spend such time. I recommend the latter option, especially with the knowledge that most Allen films are crisp enough that almost three full features of his can be squeezed into that same timeframe. My recommendation? Try Stardust Memories, Another Woman, Crimes And Misdemeanors, and, for dessert, Allen's truly greatest comedy: Radio Days. You can thank me later.
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He remains a Mystery Man
manuel-pestalozzi2 January 2014
What is the driving force behind this artist who seems to be past present and future at the same time? How is his physical and mental health? What kind of an American citizen or a World citizen is Woody Allen? Has he got "visions" that reach beyond his own persona and his intimate circle? Does he like dogs? Yes, there is a lot I would like to learn about this immensely productive and strangely elusive man who always has a fresh take on actual human events and conditions and seems virtually ageless. The answers to these questions are more easily found in Allen's own movies than in this documentary which is an uncritical tribute to the Mystery Man who appears in it as a friendly and soft spoken contributer. The style is very conventional (if not outright promotional) and disappointing - talking heads you already know (Maltin, Lax etc.) tell things you already know. Why didn't they interview his dentist, his super or his hairdresser?

And yet I don't regret having watched this documentary. As it also contains valuable insights which I found fascinating. Allen seems to stick to persons he has known for ages (I assume he is basically loyal and expects loyalty in turn). Early in his career he teamed up with people who created Woody Allen as a product. This seems to have been the foundation stone for future developments. Behind the name there is an industry with a hard core of constant trusted collaborators. It is as productive as it is (within clearly set boundaries) innovative. This somewhat unlikely combination seems to be unique. No one except Charlie Chaplin did anything that can be compared with it. I can credit the documentary for highlighting these aspects which serve as a kind of a shield for Woody Allen (the man) against too personal approaches to his persona.
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Woody Allen: An American Treasure
Leftbanker27 August 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Watching this play-by-play of every single one of his movies makes me want to watch them all again…or for the first time as there are several that I've never bothered to see.

I can't recall when I read Woody Allen's books, I think some time in high school but I remember that I would absolutely howl with laughter at so many of his incomparable gags. Getting Even, Side Effects, and Without Feathers are works of comic genius and at least as good as any of his films. I only wish the documentary had mentioned these classics in American comedy writing.

I sort of became exasperated with Woody Allen as it seemed that so many of his movies were about the same thing: rich people who have relationship problems. I wasn't being fair at all in this criticism and I do feel grateful for all of the incredible things that he has created. But then some of his films are truly bad, like 4 on the IMDb scale bad.

To Rome with Love is unwatchable which may explain why I've never finished it. Upon trying to watch it recently I realized that I had tried to watch it once before and couldn't make it through more than a few minutes. In the short shot of the young married couple walking off the train I think he's trying to go for two people in awe of the new city but they both act like it's the first time they have every walked before. Very quickly they are caught up in a ridiculous imbroglio unworthy of a bad 1960s sit-com.

Benigni wakes up to an alarm and makes this totally idiotic gesture of wiping the sleep from his eyes, as if this were a movie from the silent era and every emotion and everything we feel has to be telegraphed like sending a message with signal flags.

When we get to the character Allen plays it's like someone doing the worst Woody Allen impersonation ever. I absolutely couldn't make myself finish the movie.

And so many other of his movies have reached classic status over the course of my adult life. So we take the very good with the sort of bad. And hopefully we come out of the theater with at least one memorable line or perhaps a complete work of art. I don't happen to be one of those people that think that just because a movie made it on to the screen that this makes it art.

For me Woody Allen is a truly great comedian and humor writer. It's what I have always loved about him and it's what has set him so far apart for all these years. I remember reading one of his pieces in the New Yorker a few years ago and laughing out loud at a joke. I felt so happy that he still had the power to make me laugh so hard. There is one joke in the documentary that I had never seen or heard from his stand-up days. "My grandfather (pause), on his death bed (pause), sold me this watch." Brilliant!
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Not great
Mustang9219 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Unfortunately, not until after watching and then looking the doc up here on IMDb, did I realize that the 90 minutes I saw was only Part 2. Good job, PBS, by not specifying this was Part 2... and who knows when Part 1 aired.

So, my review of Part 2 may not be completely fair. Nonetheless, this doc is not that great. It just isn't. I really expected to delve into who Woody Allen is, and while we do get some of that, it seems like there's too much footage/time taken up by filler. Here's an example: The doc is now covering Woody's break-up with Mia Farrow, which is occurring 3 days before they finish filming on his latest movie. (Ms. Farrow discovers the pics of her adopted daughter at Woody's apartment, a firestorm erupts, we all learn Woody has been having an affair with his daughter, etc.) And someone in the doc is asking how can Woody stay focused to finish the film; we then see not one person saying that Woody can "compartmentalize," but -- I kid you not -- we have 5-6 different people all saying (in extreme short clips) "he can compartmentalize..." What?? What kind of B.S. filmmaking is this? Seriously? This is hack filmmaking. We get it. One person explaining this "personality trait" is enough, we don't have to have one piece of information pounded into us repeatedly by 6 other people.

Way too much filler in this Program. If Part 1 is like this, they should have just cut the program in half. Furthermore, the editing is atrocious. When we're on a talking head, instead of a very quick dissolve to cut out something the interviewee said, they do jump cuts -- on the talking heads!! So you're watching someone speak, they simply cut footage out and bam, there we are on the "b side," which doesn't match because the person's head isn't in the same place. Because of the straight cuts, it's VERY jarring, and calls attention to itself. This is amateur hour, folks. For a feature film, or TV show, this can utilized, if it's being used for a particular effect. But for a doc about a person? You don't want to call attention to the editing. You don't want to jar people out of the doc. Un-frickin-believable.

This could have been a really good documentary, with depth and insightfulness. Instead, it's a bunch of people saying how great Woody Allen is. I didn't realize I was going to be viewing an "Entertainment Tonight" puff piece about the director.
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Engaging for fans even if it has the flaws you expect from such an authorized documentary
bob the moo30 December 2016
Running to over 3 hours I confess that this documentary sat on my watch list for the last 3 or so years, with it always putting me off due to the time commitment and the tough sell to say to a partner "how about tonight we watch a 3+ hour documentary on Woody Allen" – if nothing else you could watch two of his films in the same time pretty much. However I finally got to watch it (albeit spread over about 3-4 days of watching it when I had free time to grab 30 minutes or more here and there.

What I found was a perfectly enjoyable walk through Woody Allen's career, with the added benefit of having the man himself available for discussion and interviews, as well as a host of those he has worked with. In terms of what it sets out to do, this makes the film work very well. More of less each movie and career step is touched on, clips are well chosen, and the contributions do have interesting elements (even if the majority are of the 'he is a genius' variety). The running time is justified by this approach (he does have a very long career), and it held my attention throughout with well-chosen clips and plenty to remind us why he is so well considered. It helps that the audience for this will certainly be fans of his work – I cannot imagine many casual viewers taking this on without any pre- existing interest.

The downside of the film is what it doesn't deliver. I was a little surprised how little Woody Allen was in discussion; we did get lots of good stuff from him, and it is well used, but I had hoped for more than this. The other element was that the film decides to focus across the spread of the career, so there is no area that gets real deep focus. So, why I disagree with claims that it "whitewashes" some of his life, I can also understand why it feels that way – but it gives these elements of his personal life about the same amount of time as the rest – plus, this is not the focus of the film.

Overall, it is one for the choir, and it doesn't provide huge depth, but it is a well-paced and consistently enjoyable look across his body of work, even if some of it has flaws inherent in all these types of films.
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Interesting but overlong documentary
malcolmgsw14 June 2012
Given that Woody Allen has spent much of his life in the public spotlight,and has had numerous books published about him there is not likely to be much new revealed in a documentary such as this.Indeed i very much got the view that either the film was made by a company controlled by Allen or made in such a way as to show a fairly complementary view of him.True his affair with his second wife is mentioned but not a great deal else.I think that his gradual decline from the heights and the 70s and 80s is not emphasised enough.Every film that he made used to be an event.Nowdays we have no idea whether or not a new film of his is even going to be distributed to the cinemas in the UK.I believe that the words that Allen put in his fans mouths in Stardust Memories about his early funny films are just as true today.He probably has only made a couple of worthwhile films since the beginning of this decade.Although a bit long it was fairly entertaining.
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Alien Allen?
stensson15 July 2012
Documentaries including interviews with the subject almost always become on the subject's conditions. At least you have that feeling. You become suspicious, sometimes without a cause.

Nobody has anything bad to say about Allen here, except for maybe himself. You watch some rare, or seldom viewed clips, from the beginning of his career as a stand-up comedian. You see clips from the early slapstick movies to Allen's breakthrough, "Annie Hall". His real artistic breakthrough was in "Play it again, Sam", but never mind.

I've seen the short documentary version and in the one which goes on for more than three hours, you perhaps get deeper analysis of Allen's work. Not here really.
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Can't see Woody for the trees
jc-osms5 September 2013
So Woody Allen finally consented to cooperate in a biographical film of his life and work. Unfortunately like many "authorised" biographies this life-story seems adulatory, shallow and in the end uninvolving. Peopled with many of his past collaborators all saying wonderful things about him, this in fact is very much the kind of film representation of his life I could all too easily imagine the older, blander, safer Woody making rather than the younger, edgier Woody we see glimpses of here only in decades old footage.

You see I'm not a fan of his later work. His stand-up material and early movies were genuinely quirky, energetic and funny, but then he found Bergman and Fellini and turned serious. I've tried some of his later movies, I really have, for instance "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" and "Melinda Melinda" and frankly hated them. For me they lack insight, incisiveness and involvement and of course what used to be his calling-card, humour. Same here with this film. Allen politely cooperates with his friendly off-camera interviewer, like a cuddly old uncle, telling us little that is new about his movies or methods, far less his rather out-of-the-ordinary private life.

Talking of which, just how close do you think he's pressed on his shall I say, unusual tryst with his at-the-time teenage stepdaughter? Correct, about the length of the Hudson River. Not that I'm prurient, but surely someone has to make the connection between Allen's real-life peccadilloes with those of some of his invented characters, like the leads in "Manhattan" for one and his continual casting of say Scarlett Johannsen in his most recent work. Not surprisingly Mia Farrow is nowhere in sight.

In summary, I don't think he's a great director by any stretch of the imagination and don't care how many lovey-actor types they line up in this film to tell me that he is. Prolific rather than profound, his is a triumph of quantity over quality. This film really is for Woody lovers only. Obviously I'm not but I saw nothing in this purple-rose tinted production to make me think he was either a good guy far less a great film-maker.
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An in depth look into Woody Allen movies, but not the man. 4/10
leonblackwood31 August 2014
Review: I haven't seen a lot of Woody Allen's movies and the ones that I have seen, I wasn't that impressed with, but I've always wondered why big actors always wanted star in his films. After watching this 2 disk documentary, I still don't know what so amazing about the way that he directs or his writing. I'm not a big fan of his style of comedy and his movies seem to work off of dialogue which I don't find that amusing. His movies never make that much money, which is quite weird because he is highly respected by many actors and actresses in his field. After watching the documentary I've noticed that he is a very humble man who takes his art seriously and he's not caught up in all the Hollywood hype, which is good to see after all of his fame. Anyway, this movie hasn't really drawn me to delve into his Filmography and I don't feel like I've Iearnt anything about the meaning behind his warped sense of humour, but its a well made documentary which does get a bit boring after a while but it covers quite a bit. Average!

Round-Up: There are many A-listers in this documentary who have many great things to say about this veteran actor/director/writer who has a unique style to making films. In this documentary, the director touched on his personal life which got tarnished after he left his wife for his adopted daughter. It will be a shame if he gets remembered for that more than his movies. Anyway, I did struggle to stay awake through the film because of the humble tone and the fact that no one has a bad word to say about him, which is a god thing really. The film primarily is about his work and the though behind each film which is uninteresting if you haven't seen a lot of his movies. Its basically made for his die hard fans who have grown up with his movies and who understand his sense of humour, which I don't. I might give some of his more serious work a watch but I'm still not drawn to his more comedic movies.

I recommend this movie to people who are into Woody Allen's work and the many different actors/actresses that he has worked with. 4/10
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Entertaining quasi-biography that praises and whitewashes Woody Allen
jm1070125 March 2013
I enjoyed this very much more than I expected to. Although I've seen many of his movies, and although I share his great love of New York City, I've never been an Allen fan (I'm not a whole lot younger than he is, so I've known of him in his various careers almost from the beginning), and I've actively despised him since he did what he did to Mia Farrow and her children.

I still don't think he's the movie-making genius his fans see and this production promotes, and it really does make out like his abominable conduct 20 years ago was just media hysteria, which is appalling. But this is a fascinating and almost always entertaining production, and the 3+ hours flew by.

The few parts that were nearly unbearable did not involve Allen himself but two of the other talking heads who sing his praises (Allen himself comes across as relatively humble, which may or may not be genuine): One is the famous movie critic Richard Schickel, who appears periodically throughout both episodes; his worship of Allen is so creepy that it seriously undermines not only his credibility as a critic but any pretense of objectivity this production has. The second is an extremely smug and obnoxious woman named Annette Insdorf, who is identified as a Film Professor at Columbia University; but (Thank God) she makes only one appearance in each episode, and only for a few minutes at the beginning. She's more obnoxious than Schickel but less creepy.

Allen fans don't have to be encouraged to watch this paean to and whitewashing of their hero; but even some, like me, who are not fans at all may be entertained.
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