Monday, 16 July 2012

[564] Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012) Review

With as definitive-sounding a title as Woody Allen: A Documentary, this new bio-doc from Curb Your Enthusiasm director (and Oscar-nominated documentarian) Robert Weide has one hell of a task on its hands. After all, Woody is a real all-rounder, having achieved success as a stand-up comedian, comedy writer and playwright before finding success as an actor-director over 40 years ago.

43 films later, he's back on a high with the success of Midnight In Paris, which has grossed more than any other Allen flick to date, and has garnered the bespectacled auteur yet another Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay (his third, and fourth overall). With that in mind, there's no better time for an all-inclusive documentary. And, with its mixture of classic clips, new interviews with a comprehensive list of collaborators and critics, and unprecedented access to the man himself, Weide's film does a great job of summing up Allen's career, and providing a compelling glimpse at the films that have built his reputation.

The exclusive footage with Allen, in particular, is an absolute treat, with the director's famously self-effacing modesty, and outright grumpiness, undercutting much of the sense of occasion that comes with such a documentary. “Writing,” he says at the opening, “is the great life. Then reality sets in.” Over the course of the film, Weide takes the viewer into Allen's home, and takes the director out of his comfort zone. This conjures up some moments of true insight, such as when Allen opens up a bedside drawer, and reveals a messy clump of paper scraps, each containing different ideas for movie scripts, or when he takes the camera crew on a tour of his childhood home of Brooklyn, wryly commenting, “It doesn't look like much, but it wasn't.”

Unfortunately, the film, as we see it in this limited UK theatrical run, is a cut down edit of an American Masters television two-parter. In its transatlantic transit, over an hour of material has been cut, which only accentuates the film's lopsided structure.

Read the full article here.

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