Woody Allen: a documentary, Cannes Film Festival - review

By Derek Malcolm

Did you know that Woody Allen doesn’t use a computer, has never sent an email in his life, and writes his screenplays on a typewriter almost as old as himself? His worst problem is: where does he get a new ribbon nowadays?

Robert Weide’s three-hour documentary about the writer-director, presented on the opening day of the 65th Cannes Festival, is sensibly cut by an hour for the cinema.

It shows him at work on the old typewriter and goes solidly through his past, aided by comments from himself and figures such as Martin Scorsese and Diane Keaton.

The whole thing would be a bit of a hagiography but for Woody’s own comments. It’s clear there’s no false pride about the man who made classics such as Annie Hall and Manhattan. “Every time I start a film I think it’s going to be as good as Citizen Kane, and then halfway through I’m determined to prostitute myself in any way I can in order to prevent a total catastrophe.”

He’s had some, too, along with the triumphs. As a comedian, he says he had to be forced onto the stage and always hated the process of trying to make people laugh. As a filmmaker, he says comedy has no point at all unless there’s something serious inside it.

Of course, Cannes and the French love him. Even in his fallow period when his own New York and most of the rest of the world almost gave up on him, the French continued to defend him. Now he’s fashionable again, thanks to Midnight in Paris. “‘If I didn’t make films’, he says, “I don’t know what else I would do, apart from playing jazz and making a nuisance of myself.”

woody collage