52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Premiering as a part of the PBS American Masters series "Woody Allen: A Documentary" is an impressively scaled and professionally comprehensive project on the enigmatic filmmaker. Allen is a true Hollywood renegade--a man who has followed his passions and interests and made a career out of making the films he wanted without regard for commercial compromise. Such examples of contemporary auteurs are pretty rarified in this business of show, and Allen has become and remained an unlikely and inspirational trailblazer for over forty years. Allen, however, remains an intensely private and aloof persona, so this massive (over 3 hours) compilation of interviews and film clips is a rare treat. While the 2002 Richard Schickel special (he is also on hand as an interviewee for this piece) "Woody Allen: A Life in Film" offered a glimpse of what Allen thought of his film legacy, it lacked the sheer scope of this new documentary. "Woody Allen: A Documentary" definitively showcases the highlights of Allen's career as well as any other piece of film that I've seen. And that makes it pretty special indeed.
Director Robert Weide follows a course that is largely chronological. While Allen (and his sister) do offer some insight about his childhood and family, this really just serves as an introduction. Seeing Allen revisit his old childhood haunts is unexpectedly intimate. And while there are some other personal moments interspersed throughout including his music and the dissolution of his relationship with Mia Farrow, the topic here is focused primarily on Woody Allen, the professional. Allen, it seems, almost fell into show business and had early stints as a writer, comedian, and performer before breaking into filmmaking. His first foray into studio movies was the wildly successful "What's New Pussycat?" which, despite its popularity, convinced Allen he wanted to do his own thing. From his earlier comedies, to his breakthrough "Annie Hall," to the doldrums of the late nineties and early two thousands, to his recent resurgence--this film does an excellent job hitting all the career highlights. Appropriately, it even includes this year's "Midnight in Paris" which is his biggest money-maker of all time.
The documentary is loaded with great film clips and lots of celebrity interviews. From friends, co-workers, business partners, to a veritable who's who of Hollywood stars--there is no shortage of people willing to chime in on this American institution. Through it all, Allen comes across as incredibly spry, self deprecating, and very very funny. If you have any interest in Woody Allen films, this is absolutely unmissable. I doubt that a better, more comprehensive documentary will ever be made about his resume of works. That said, it is somewhat less than all-access when it comes to the man behind the camera. It offers more of Allen than I've seen before, but this is NOT an intimately personal look at the man. But it is an essential and incredibly entertaining piece from the aspect of film studies. Even with a running time of over three hours, "Woody Allen: A Documentary" flies by. And most importantly, it made me want to go back and revisit so many films that I haven't seen in years! KGHarris, 11/11.
DVD Bonus Features: 12 Questions with Woody Allen, Deleted Scenes/Interviews, and Interview with Weide.
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
John C. Bergeron
- Published on Amazon.com
After watching this outstanding documentary of Woody Allen's unparalleled career, unprecedented in its access, candor and insight, I was left with an even greater recognition that Mr. Allen is a writer who makes films, not a film-maker who writes. From his earliest one-liners up to the present day, Woody has continued to grow and change, but never at the cost of either his professional integrity or his vision. Perhaps it has served us well that Woody Allen seems to view the majority of his work as either mediocre or as abject failures, for rather than stifling his spirit, such dubious self-analysis seems only to have fueled his ambition and illuminated his vision. And while even I, one of his most ardent fans, would admit that he lost his way occasionally with films such as Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Small-Time Crooks, somehow I always knew that he'd be back. I've come to feel that some of those comparative underachievements were nothing more than the "vacations" of a man who has never really taken one. But at his best, there's simply no one better. From Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper and Love and Death, to the richer Annie Hall, Mahattan, Hannah and Her Sisters, Purple Rose, Danny Rose, Zelig, Crimes and Misdemeanors and Midnight in Paris (and many others!), Woody Allen has proven that cummulative greatness will ultimately supercede what C&M's Judah Rosenthal called, "The superficial pay-off of the moment." To recognize the stature of this incomparable artist, one need only review the list of outstanding actresses, actors and cinematograpers who either have been, or who are waiting to be called for Mr. Allen's next project, sight-unseen.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent documentary about Allen's entire career. There are many, many film clips and they are all choice highlights from his films. Interspersed with these clips are interview segments with Allen present day and during earlier days. There are also clips of mini interviews with the people with whom he has worked, including Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton, Scarlett Johannsen, John Cusack, Owen Wilson, Mariel Hemingway, Gordon Willis, Marshall Brickmann, Martin Scorsese, his sister Letty Aronson, now his producer, Dick Cavett and so forth. Although Mia Farrow is covered, she does not participate in any way since they have never resumed contact in any way. She was, of course, Allen's other major leading lady but he ended up having an affair and marrying her adopted daughter years ago.
Even though I have seen every single one of his movies, I really liked the choice of film clips presented here. It was very enjoyable to see them and to learn some of the tidbits about what else was going on while making them. Everyone contributed some major insight about the film clip which was unknown to us before.
I also enjoyed the way he present day took us to his old school or walked down the street with his sister and they talked to present New Yorkers. There was even old footage shown of his parents who finally died near the century mark.
Although the focus was on the work, there was enough of a human dimension presented here to make this a very important summing up of a creative life while the creator is still around to share it. If you love his work, you need this film in your collection.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
I admire Woody Allen as a man of many talents, a writer, comedian, musician and filmmaker. His best films have everything I look for in a comedy (or dramedy, he is especially good in making them) - brilliance, wit, clever writing, hilarious and sinister twist in the plot, amazing performances, authentic feel of the era and great musical score. I admire his respect for the audience: "I never write down to them. I always assume that they're all as smart as I am... if not smarter."
For someone who has been a fan of Allen's works for many years and seen every movie he was a part of, whether as a writer/ director, star or all of the above, Woody Allen: A Documentary is the next best thing to watching Allen's films. I was entertained, learned something new about my favorite film-maker, and once again was fascinated with his productive and unique career that has spanned over six decades. The DVDs with Allen's films don't usually include a lot of bonus materials, such as making of behind the scenes; so, watching the documentary filled with the clips from many Allen's films and listening to the interviews with the stars have added to better understanding of the man behind 40 + films many of which belong to the best ever made.
Allen is known as a multi-talented artist - the stand-up comedian, musician, actor and, of course, a film director. But the documentary confirmed what I've assumed already - that he considers himself primarily a writer who has been writing for a living since he was 15 and started composing the jokes and one-liners for a local paper making $75 a week - not bad for a teenager back in the 1950s. At the age of 19, he started writing scripts for the most popular television shows of the time. Allen has authored the Broadway plays, the books of prose and non-fiction, and the scripts to every movie he ever made for which he has been awarded 14 Oscar nominations in the category Best Original Screenplay, more than any film-maker ever. I was genially moved when Woody confessed that all these years he's been using the old typewriter Olympia and he is not going to change it for one of latest and fastest computers with the useful word processing programs. He proudly announced that he is a very fast typist.
For two evenings, in two parts of the documentary, each 1,5 hours long, Allen himself, his younger sister-producer Letty Aronson, his friends, business associates, and the famous, respectable and talented members of the prestigious "I've acted in Allen's film(s)" actors, gave the grateful audiences the insight into the phenomenon called Woody Allen, his persona, his works, his unique place in the cultural life of America, his origins, influences, his Muses, and his work ethics. Allen came out in the interviews which are more valuable because they are rare as a moving, deprecated, very clever, funny and charming person. I know many would not share my opinion but I am a loyal fan, and the documentary was made for people like me. If you have problems with the certain facts from Allen's biography you should spend three hours with something else.
Watching the documentary, I was happy to learn that Allen has good genes :) - his father lived to be 100 and his mother died when she was 96 - big chance that Woody would keep writing/directing for many years to come and never lose his wit, sense of humor and incredible talent and lust for life. What is 76 for him? Just a small number. He makes me a happy viewer, always has and I wish him long years of happy and productive life.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Gerry C. Potter
- Published on Amazon.com
Some great clips and interviews--a well-made doc.
Excellent as an intro to Woody's work or for die-hard Woody Allen fans.