Woody Allen: A Documentary (2012) Review

4 08 2012

Copyright 2012 Whyaduck Productions

★ ★ ★ ★ 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.





Midnight in Paris (2011) Review

29 06 2011

Copyright 2011 Gravier Productions and Mediapro

★ ★ ★ ★

Maddie and I bought a Groupon to Aperture Cinema a couple weeks ago.  As much as I hate to admit I actually used a Groupon, because I think they are the silliest things ever invented, it actually was a pretty good deal.  For those of you that know me, you know I am cheap; therefore, I can swallow my pride to save a little bit of money.  Anyway, we finally used this said Groupon tonight and went to see Woody Allen’s latest film, Midnight in Paris.

Owen Wilson plays Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter, who is on vacation to Paris with his fiancee, Inez (Rachel McAdams), and her parents.  Very early on, it is alluded to that Gil had spent some time in Paris many years prior.  In fact, he regrets his decision to leave and become a screenwriter, having much preferred staying and trying his luck at being a novelist.  Though a successful screenwriter, he is working on a novel and would prefer moving to Paris and finishing his novel there.  Inez, however, plans to stay in Southern California after they marry and continue their rather posh lifestyle there; Inez’s parents, who are wealthy, agree with her.  Over the course of the vacation, Gil spends much time reluctantly going out to various places with Inez and her parents and her friends, Paul and Carol.  One night, not wanting to go dance and a little drunk, Gil wonders off on his own.  He gets lost on the streets of Paris, and when the clock strikes midnight, a mysterious 1920s-style car stops in front of him with an entourage of people encouraging him to get in.  After his first excursion, he continues his midnight romps and ends up finding something more about himself through the beauty and allure of his Parisian nights.

I am a huge Woody Allen fan, have been for many years, and I think this Allen’s best film since Deconstructing Harry in 1997.  I enjoyed Match Point, Cassandra’s Dream and Vicky Christina Barcelona, but this film seemed more genuine to me than any of them.  The film is most definitely a romantic comedy, but not completely an Allenesque comedy.  Interestingly, Paris itself is almost more of the love interest of the main character than anything else.

 

Darius Khondji’s cinematography is absolutely beautiful and elucidates the affection for Paris that Allen hopes to convey perfectly.  The script is solid; light, comedic and romantic, but very solid.  It also marks a chance at seeing Owen Wilson in a more serious role than he is usually accustomed.  One, in which, he actually does a very good job.  The supporting cast is very good as well, including many Oscar nominees and former winners such as Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates and Adrien Brody.

In short, Allen does a wonderful job of capturing the magic of Paris and has created a film that is as much of an ode to Paris as his classic 1979 masterpiece Manhattan was an ode to the Big Apple.  I highly recommend this film and think even non-Allen lovers could find some enjoyment out of this one.








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