WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY
The filmmakers trail Woody Allen on his film sets over 18 months and follow him back to Brooklyn as he visits his childhood haunts.
Review by Louise Keller:
If I could pick a handful of dinner guests from anyone in the world, Woody Allen would be among them. It might not be quite the same as meeting the man himself, but in this candid, revealing and wonderfully entertaining documentary, I felt as though I got to understand, in part, the tousled filmmaker with the black rimmed glasses, whose many films have characterised his cutting humour, foibles and philosophies. Director Robert E. Weide, the man behind the film, has stopped short of taking away the Allen veneer, however. As entertaining as it is, the film glosses over much in the life of the man whose private moments have often been signposted in his scripts.
It is the interviews with the man himself that are the most revealing. Other interview subjects stars of his movies, film critics, producers, his biographer, his mother and sister, who states this is the happiest she has ever known him - with a young wife, two children and enjoying the huge box office success and acclaim that Midnight in Paris has brought.
Interestingly, it is in the context of being a guest at the Cannes Film Festival (when Allen expresses his disdain for the red carpet and media interviews), that he exclaims that although he would love to come up with an idea for a film that pleases the multitudes, he does not believe it will happen in his lifetime. Famous last words: one year later, Midnight in Paris becomes Allen's largest grossing movie world wide with a projected box office expectation of $125million.
When the film begins, we see Allen scribbling on the side of his bed. "Writing is the great life; you write in your room," he says. With a process that starts by rifling through scraps of paper on which he has made notes, all of Allen's works have been typed on an old Olympia portable typewriter he bought for $40. Any corrections are made with the help of a pair of scissors and stapler. He has a similar no-nonsense approach to vanity and his black-rimmed glasses remain his trademark, having noticed them being worn by a comic, when he was a teenager.
I must admit, I have always wondered what women saw in him; for the first time, I understood why women are captivated. Intelligent, witty and fascinating company, he has a little boy lost appeal. He remains good friends with Diane Keaton, with whom the world fell in love as Annie Hall, the character in the film Allen wrote for her, when he himself had fallen in love with her. Keaton remembers: "Woody was short and cute and had an instant crush. We were a good team," she says of their one-year relationship. Of Keaton, Allen says she was beautiful, incredibly gifted and makes him laugh more than anyone. Allen's other relationships are also canvassed, including the events that led up to the ugly breakup with Mia Farrow (when Allen fell in love with her stepdaughter Soon-Yi Previn). Allen and Previn have been married for 15 years.
Clearly his actors love him; he has written award winning roles for many of them, including Keaton, Diane Wiest (Bullets Over Broadway, 1994) and Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, 1995). For Scarlett Johansson (Match Point, 2005), shooting the movie was one of the best summers of her life; Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008) comments how Allen loves and appreciates women; Naomi Watts (You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, 2010), tells he is the best actor's director she has ever worked with; He's a romantic, says Mariel Hemmingway (Manhattan, 1979); Sean Penn (Sweet and Lowdown, 1999) says everyone wants to work for him so badly, they bring their best to the film.
We get a snapshot of Allen's childhood in Brooklyn (born Allen Konisberg, his parents wanted him to be a pharmacist; his sister says he was born to the wrong parents). Aged 15, he began writing gags for the local newspaper, using the pseudonym of Woody Allen, so the kids at school would not see them. Writing lines for comics followed and although he was painfully shy, was persuaded to work as a stand-up comic. When his first screenplay (What's New Pussycat, 1965) was changed dramatically, he vowed he would never work in film again unless he had total control.)
Control is what he has had making his movies and as the documentary traces the many films Allen has made, I couldn't help but want to see them all again, or in the case of those I had never seen, eager to seek them out. As Allen says, there are many surprises between writing the script and seeing the finished product on the screen. Although it might not go quite deep enough, this superb documentary offers a string of surprises - and fascinating viewing.
From Left: Scoop, Small Time Crooks, Annie Hall
Hollywood Ending, Take the Money and Run, Sweet and Lowdown
Husbands and Wives, Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Everything ...About Sex but were Afraid to Ask
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WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Woody Allen, Penelope Cruz, Scralett Johansson, Diane Keaton, Owen Wilson. Josh Brolin
PRODUCER: Robert E. Weide
DIRECTOR: Robert E. Weide
SCRIPT: Robert E. Weide
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Neve Cunningham, Anthoni Savini, Nancy Schreiber, Bill Sheehy, Buddy Squires
EDITOR: Karoliina Tuovinen, Robert E. Weide
MUSIC: Paul Cantelon
PRODUCTION DESIGN: n/a
RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: (Blu-ray director's cut 192 minutes)
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Transmission
DVD RELEASE: June 27, 2012
Midnight in Paris
Everyone Says I Love You