By Tim Appelo
© The Hollywood Reporter, November 18, 2011 permalink
Check out the exclusive clips above and below and see if you don't agree with THR's Tim Goodman that Robert Weide's Woody Allen: A Documentary, which airs on PBS' American Masters series Nov. 20 and 21, is "fascinating, funny and insightful."
A few soreheads have complained that it's not revealing enough about the elusive auteur's life, and it's true that Weide doesn't devote much time to Allen's once-scandalous affair with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn and what Allen said Farrow referred to as the "grotesque publicity circus" that followed.
But Woody and Soon-Yi celebrate the 15th anniversary of their marriage and the 20th anniversary of their romance next year (he spent 12 years with Farrow). And we do get glimpses of Farrow's indelible performances in Allen's films, and insights from a great many insiders, including Allen's costar and ex-wife Louise Lasser and costar and ex Diane Keaton (whose new memoir partly concerns Allen).
Plus, there are pictures of him and Harlene Rosen, his teenage sweetheart and first wife, and his funniest standup comedy bit about her (they decided to get a divorce instead of a vacation, because "a vacation in Bermuda is over in two weeks, but a divorce you always have.").
Granted, Allen did shockingly meaner jokes about Harlene, and she sued him, and that's not in the doc. A true warts and all doc would have dirt like this. But it's amazing that Weide got Allen to open up as much as he did -- even letting him film a Woody Allen movie in progress. If you don't like the results, sue him.
But you pretty much have to watch Weide's film to be conversant with Woody Allen's amazingly precocious ascent and post-scandal rebound to the top of the movie game. Not since Philip Roth has there been such a comeback after such a distinguished first act.
"The ardor [for Woody Allen] that once burned hot in the breasts of the Times and the national critics has at best cooled, and at worst been extinguished," wrote Peter Biskind in Vanity Fair in 2005. "Perhaps it's for the best that Allen hasn't [been] dubbed an American Master on PBS." Wrong! What a difference six years, a masterpiece or two, and the biggest hit in Woody Allen history (the Oscar-buzzed Midnight in Paris) make!