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Imagine… Woody Allen

Tue Jul 23, 10.35pm-12.30am, BBC1

The upcoming ‘Blue Jasmine’, starring Cate Blanchett and – for some strange reason – Andrew ‘Dice’ Clay, will mark Woody Allen’s forty-eighth turn in the director’s chair. It promises to be another highlight of an already staggering career that has whirled all around the dial from goofy smutfests like ‘Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (*But Were Afraid To Ask)’ to the sombre, Bergman-esque gloom-mongering of ‘Stardust Memories’.

Robert B Weide’s mammoth documentary (part two airs tomorrow at the same time) represents – horrible phrase alert – a fitting testimony to Woodrow’s ongoing legacy. Where other artist studies fudge and meander, this superior film is clear-sighted, thorough and so skippily paced that – despite the generous runtime – you might find yourself wanting it to go on even longer.

The Woodman’s journey from gag-writer to nightclub stand-up to screen goofball to Oscar-winning director of such corduroy-clad classics as ‘Annie Hall’ to the more divisive, esoteric projects that consumed him during the ’80s is well known, but there’s plenty of juice in the revelation that Allen strongly dislikes ‘Manhattan’, as well as some choice archive footage of him boxing a kangaroo on live TV.

The film is packed out with stellar talking heads (Sean Penn, Chris Rock, Diane Keaton), with the pick of the bunch being fellow Big Apple chroniclers Larry David and Martin Scorsese – who gushes over Allen’s depictions of New York while maintaining they are completely foreign to him. Exemplary.