Woody Allen: A Documentary Review

By Roland Squire

Woody Allen A Documentary

This fast and fun documentary will fill in the gaps for even the mildest of Allen fans.


A decent portion of the doc covers his early life in great detail and especially his teenage years, when he started writing jokes for various newspaper columnists in the fifties. Allen has never basked in the attention of the outside world, making it a pleasant surprise to find that Weide managed to persuade the great man to take him on a tour of his old neighborhood. The information he imparts about his family life and school days would probably ring true with many of those who felt that school had to be endured, rather than enjoyed. Even if you are an Allen enthusiast and therefore fairly knowledgeable, you’ll still likely to find things here that will surprise you.

From there, Weide moves quickly on to Allen’s legendary film career and the remainder culminates in a whistle stop tour of his successes and occasional failures. The director’s choice to intersperse the film with clips from Woody’s classics is genius and definitely manages to produce the most laughs. It would likely be difficult to make a film about Woody Allen, without using snippets from ‘Sleeper’ or ‘Bananas,’ so it’s a real pleasure to experience even the smallest clip of them on the big screen.

When considering which of Allen’s many gems would feature in a self-penned ‘best-of’ list, you’d imagine that ‘Annie Hall’, ‘Hannah and her Sisters’ and ‘Manhattan’ are sure to be in there. However, during one of the many interviews, we finally get the opinion from the horse’s mouth. To the stunned friends and critics who also appear throughout, Allen openly admits to thoroughly disliking one of the above, having almost requested that it was pulled from release after he watched the press screening. Perhaps it is this rather low opinion of himself, that makes Allen so easy to watch?

Instead of trawling through his life and putting Allen on a pedestal, we are reminded in a positive and grounded way (even by Allen himself) that all he does is make films and if a good one comes along, he’s happy. No subject seem to be off-limits and there is even some discussion about the much publicized breakup with Mia Farrow (a noticeable absentee from the film) and court battle that followed. The tact is well-balanced and Allen is not pushed during these moments, since the film’s focus is concentrated more on his creative output than his personal relationships.

For people with only the mildest interest in Allen’s work then this documentary will manage to fill in the gaps. It is fast, fun and fit to burst with nervous coughs, laughter and black-framed glasses.

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