Film Review – Woody Allen: A Documentary

Earlier this year, Woody Allen won his fourth Oscar, the award for Best Original Screenplay for his hugely enjoyable film Midnight in Paris. The presenter of the award Angelina Jolie had to accept the award on his behalf, due to Woody Allen once again not attending the ceremony. He has said that he doesn’t feel any pride in winning Oscars, because he doesn’t believe the popularity of his film makes it one of the best from that year.

This is just one of many interesting facets of Woody Allen’s personality, and they are all laid bare in Robert Weide’s Woody Allen: A Documentary, although perhaps not with the depth you would want or expect. Weide’s film comes across more as a tribute rather than a documentary, filled with clips and talking heads. The interviews though are quite often a treat. From fans such as Martin Scorsese, who speaks with delight and almost child-like excitement when talking about Allen’s films, to Diane Keaton, who explains how she tried to get Woody to fall in love with her.

There are of course understandable absences from the film. Mia Farrow doesn’t make a personal appearance, but you are left wondering if Robert Weide even thought of asking to speak to her. It is all handled rather delicately as the director keeps a respectful distance. This could explain how he’s able to get exclusive access to the set of You’ll Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, where we see him running through a scene with Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin. Watts clearly loves every minute of working with Allen, while Brolin seems like a nervous wreck because his director isn’t giving him enough feedback. This is an interesting insight, but it still feels like it could go a little deeper into Allen’s filmmaking process.

If you know anything about Woody Allen’s personal life, you’ll know that it’s worthy of a documentary all of its own. However, Weide deals with these incidents as briskly as he does almost everything else in the film. Weide does however show a clip of Farrow and Allen together in Husbands and Wives, not long after Farrow had refused to go back on the set when she learned that Allen had been having an affair with her daughter. Watching it you can see how visibly uncomfortable they both look, which luckily for them actually adds to the scene. It’s about as deep and as probing as the film gets.

Despite its lack of depth and insight, if you’re a fan of Woody Allen this will be an enjoyable treat. It’s filled with some hilarious clips, the best of which are from talk shows and when Allen had a boxing match with a kangaroo, and some intimately touching moments from Allen himself. He shows Weide the typewriter that he’s written all of his films on, and says that the guy who sold it to him said it would last longer than he would. He shows us how he organises his handwritten notes, and how sometimes he just staples these notes to the script if he’s grown particularly attached to them. Having said that, this was originally a 3-hour special made for PBS before it was edited down to less than two hours for a cinema release, you have to wonder if we’ve lost out on over an hour’s worth of genuine depth.

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About Eric Wood

Eric Wood is 21 years old, from Bury in Greater Manchester, and a graduate of Salford University where he studied Journalism and English Literature. His first novel comes out later in the year, and he begins work directing his first feature length movie in the summer. Eric absolutely adores all forms of writing and loves movies so he’s the ideal film critic. His greatest inspiration for many years has been Michael Crichton, as Crichton has written novels, non-fiction, screenplays, and directed movies. Eric would love to be able to achieve all of those things in my lifetime.
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