The label of mock-umentary just doesn't do justice to the uniqueness of this film. ALLEN and his amazingly talented staff created a movie that no other director could have made nor even thought of doing. Some of the humor is rather modern like the forward references to self-gratification during the psychiatrist scenes with MIA FARROW. But mostly, it's filled with humor from another time and place which we'll never return.
To me, one of the wonderful aspects of this is the period music dispersed throughout with joyful admiration. We are lucky that ALLEN has continued to use music from the early part of the 20th century. I think no other director has so consistently had such a reverence for this wonderful music. Perhaps no other director has such a strong knowledge of it either.
That WOODY ALLEN normally portrays himself as a nebbishy character in many of his own movies works so well in this movie. A more aggressive person who becomes a chameleon would not have worked as well at all. I am glad that MIA FARROW was still associated with him when he made this film, I think no other modern actress could have pulled this off as well as she did. She has that timeless look that is appealing but has a far-off feeling.
The flavor of the period-looking cinematography and photography is part of the genius of the implementation here. It is so right on the money. The flickering of projectors, the out-of-focus look to so man scenes shot today meld amazingly well with the contrived shots.
THINK ABOUT THIS - this is years before CGI took over Hollywood...years before FORREST GUMP and countless of other knock-offs have proliferated in movies. Gee whiz, there is CGI in so many movies these days. I watched a DVD of a recent movie recently which used special effects in the most unexpected, unlikely and unnecessary parts you'd be surprised.
Yes, ZELIG is a masterpiece and I only feel sorry for those who cannot see the astounding piece of cinema this is.