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Woody Allen: A Documentary

Critics' choice
Woody Allen
This is a cut-down of a two-part ‘American Masters’ TV doc about Woody Allen, made by Robert B Weide, a producer and director of ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. It’s a collaborative effort with Woody (who, unusually, looks happy to be interviewed), so we see him at home (showing off a typewriter he bought for $40 at 16), writing on his bed and standing outside his childhood home in Brooklyn. The interviewees are top-notch – Diane Keaton, Martin Scorsese, Sean Penn – the clips are reminders of Woody at his best and footage from the making of ‘You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger’ is a nod to how much of a hands-off director Woody is said to be. The film doesn’t dwell long on Woody’s split with Mia Farrow (although he does comment about his private life becoming public). But Weide is sensible enough to acknowledge Woody’s fitful recent offerings, although some will disagree that ‘Match Point’ was a return to form. The box-office success of ‘Midnight in Paris’ lets the film end on a high – even if Owen Wilson puts that down to having ‘Paris’ in the title.

Release details

Rated: E
Release date: Friday June 8 2012
Duration: 108 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Robert B Weide
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MikeT

This film is much as any self-respecting Allen fan would anticipate - a careful chronology of Woody's work - from employed schoolboy joke writer through to writer/director of Midnight In Paris. It's reasonable to assume fellow members of an audience will also have an encyclopaedic knowledge of his work - which became very obvious when there were stifled sniggers all around me as various scenes from films play while narrated by Allen, friends, or actors. I thought the selection of scenes from films was nothing short of superb - including the scene from Mighty Aphrodite when Mira Sorvino's character explains why she likes 'acting' in porn films. (The guy next to me was laughing so hard I thought he'd have to be hospitalised.) . Allen speaks very candidly - about his work and personal life - as do various friends, his sister, and life-long colleagues - including the reason for the much publicised break-up with Mia Farrow. Early in the film, Allen explains how he cuts and pastes his work - to this day produced on his ancient manual typewriter - literally cut (with scissors) and clipped/pasted together with mini staples. . Best cinematographic, best dialogue, funniest gags, most humorous lines, etc are all in this one movie. Typically self-effacing, Allen says to camera he wishes he'd written a movie audiences would see again and again - okay so he didn't exactly write all this movie, but it is a movie I'll see again (and again when it's on DVD). Loved it. Four stars.