Woody Allen: A Documentary Review

By Stephen A Russell

woody allen

New York City’s most prolific auteur is the focus of Robert B. Weide’s Woody Allen: A Documentary. An executive producer of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Weide is a natural fit for the world’s most neurotic man.

A cavalcade of Hollywood A-listers, including Martin Scorcese, Sean Penn, Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, as well as recent muses Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, each recall their experiences of working with Allen, allowing fascinating insights into just how light his directorial touch is.

Half the beauty of this richly layered work is that it looks beyond Allen’s film exploits. A walk through his old Brooklyn neighbourhood takes in the house where he was born and the halls of the school, lampooned so perfectly in Annie Hall, where he regularly faced anti-Semitic bullying. His beginnings in stand-up comedy receive plenty of attention, as do his turns at writing jokes for the papers and plays for Broadway.

In a fantastic clip of Allen’s aged mother she reveals he was a perfectly happy child until he figured out he was going to die, giving birth to the quirky character we know now.

When it does delve into the silver screen there’s a thorough exploration of both his triumphs and the backlashes, from the early comedies of Bananas and Sleeper, to the masterpieces of Annie Hall and Manhattan, and his foreign excursions including Match Point and Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

It’s almost unimaginable that ex-wife Mia Farrow completed filming Husbands and Wives opposite him after catching Allen cheating on her with their adopted daughter, his now wife Soon-Yi.

Whether or not you’re a fan, this is a well-crafted documentary and a genuinely rich look at a celebrated filmmaker’s life.

In a beautiful moment of self-reflection Allen muses that almost everything he dreamt of as a boy, from starring in movies, to directing them, to playing in a New Orleans brass band, he has achieved.

With Allen’s dad living to 100, and his mum 96, hopefully good genes mean there are plenty more smashes to come from Allen.

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