★ ★ ★ ★ 1/2 (for Allen fans)
Most of you that know me personally, know that Woody Allen ranks as one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. The first Allen film I ever saw was Purple Rose of Cairo soon after it came out on cable in the late 1980s, and from then on I was a fan. I think the neurotic behavior that is evident in my own personality is infinitely relatable to his humor and films. As I got older, I began watching more of his backlog and loyally viewing his new films each year at the theatre; yes, both the good ones and the bad ones. I would estimate that I’ve seen 90% of his repertoire, including some of the early films that he just acted in and movies like Scenes from a Mall that he didn’t write or direct, but appeared in. Over a long vacation to the northwest in 2000, I read the Eric Lax biography, and I have skimmed through several others from time to time since. So, when this expansive documentary on his life and career came out last year by director Robert Weide, it immediately fell on my radar.
The film covers literally every facet of Allen’s life and has interviews with actors, friends, family, collaborators, parents, almost any willing participant they could find to comment on Allen’s work and life. Furthermore, there are many segments of interviews that were shot with Allen himself, including his taking the crew on a tour of the neighborhood he grew up in in Brooklyn. At well over 3 hours, we see Allen’s life from a boy in Brooklyn to comedy writer to acclaimed filmmaker evolve. Outside of the amazing interviews, there is a plethora of behind-the-scenes footage from his films, rare photos and other interesting audio and video segments that help tell his story. Nearly all of his films are featured, and though this film doesn’t tarnish Allen in any way, they didn’t omit a section regarding the scandal between he and Mia Farrow in the 1990s.
If you are a Woody Allen fan, this is a must see. If not, it may not be your cup of tea. Whether you love him or hate him though, it’s undeniable that his posterity and longevity as a filmmaker are quite an achievement, and along the way, he has given us more than a fair share of brilliant films in the canon of American Cinema. Furthermore, few auteurs from any era can claim an ability to make us laugh, as well as engage in deep dramatic content. Just think, Allen gave us Banannas as well as Match Point and Crimes and Misdemeanors.