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Woody Allen , Mia Farrow , Woody Allen    PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)   DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
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The thinking person's Forrest Gump, Woody Allen's 1983 Zelig is a funny, atmospheric mock-documentary about the collision of one man's manifest neuroses colliding with key moments in 20th-century history. Allen plays the title character, a self-effacing, timorous fellow with such a porous personality that he physically becomes a reflection of whoever he is with. Complex and painstaking, the film's pre-Gump special effects manage to place Allen, buried under a series of makeup and prosthetic guises, in a number of scenes along with Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally, a pope at the Vatican, and famous guests at a garden party hosted by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Similar in tone and satire to some of Allen's short, comic pieces published in The New Yorker magazine, Zelig is a one-note movie that takes its delicious time establishing the fullness of its central joke. It's well worth the wait. --Tom Keogh

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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Clever Woody Allen Mockumentary March 7 2003
"Zelig" is quite probably the most experimental of all of Woody Allen's movies. It a mockumentary about Leonard Zelig, a man whose features could change to look like whomever he is with at the time. It's a skilled comedy, with some impressive special effects scene (Woody Allen clowning around with Charlie Chaplin and Babe Ruth), along with some interesting stock footage, film parodies, and bizarre musical numbers. While the middle section of the film (focusing on Zelig's therapy) sags a bit, the rest of the film more than makes up for it.
Being a Woody Allen film, there are very few frills on this, other than a booklet and a trailer (which shows quite well how unmarketable the movie was - hence the box office failure). The picture and sound are supposed to be rather scratchy, so there is very little that the DVD can do.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I've always loved this little gem of a film July 18 2004
Some critics said it was too long, and the joke ran thin. To me that describes Forrest Gump. Some critics thought it was a no-concept movie. To me that describes Forrest Gump. To me this is Woody as a virtuoso filmmaker, though not the sort that Tarentino is pegged. The film makes a very true point about fame, about nostalgia, and most of all about conformity in a world that's always proud to show off its nonconformity (note the opening montage about how this was "the jazz age") but which is at bottom hopelessly conformist. Forrest Gump, with its aw-shucks philosophy and cliche-embedded script, didn't dare tackle such weighty issues. But this movie does. But if you don't GET them, as many critics didn't judging from the reviews, this film will to you seem too long. My biggest complaint is that maybe it's actually too short. I would have liked to see some of its themes explored more--admittedly tricky in the narrow confines Allen imposed on himself with his documentary structure.
Here Allen runs the range of tricks to film, but they're not computer tricks (exactly). To age his film he actually scuffs it. To achieve the sound of tinny 1920s sound he records his pop songs (wonderful parodies of the real music of the time) on authentic 1920s equipment. Most of all, in sort of a post-modernist irony that is currently so hip but was fresh in 1983, he features interviews with trendy intellectuals who both reinforce and parody their academic personas by appearing on camera.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Woody Allen Does It Again: Hilarious Documentary July 5 2004
1983's "Zelig" was written and directed by Woody Allen. This is of course years after 1977's Annie Hall and so Woody Allen's comic talent was already established. Woody Allen's witty, intellectual humor is most prominent in this film which he directs as if it were a documentary. It's entirely in black and white, except for the contemporary scenes of interviewed characters, there is footage from the 20's, 30's and 40's, including footage of Adolph Hitler making a speech at a Nazi rally. Woody Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a shy, unassuming little man with an identity disorder. He cannot truly be himself because he becomes transformed into his surroundings. When he is around Jewish rabbis, he becomes Jewish, when he is around African-Americans, he becomes black, when he is around overweight people, he becomes fat, etc. This miracle of biology earned him the title of the Chameleon or "The Changing Man". Mia Farrow, who coincidentally was romantically linked with Woody Allen at this time in the 80's, plays the role of Zelig's love interest Dr. Eudora Fletcher. Eudora Fletcher takes a genuine interest in Zelig and examines him psychologically through hypnosis. The scenes of their sessions are extremely funny but then again so is much of this movie. Woody Allen is the first Forrest Gump, being as funny and awkward, at least 10 years before Tom Hanks did it in the 90's. Zelig is so loved that he is hob-nobbing with all the greats of the time- Charlie Chaplin, William Randalph Hearst, Fanny Brice, F. Scott Fitzegerald and Zelda, etc. The music for this movie is appropriately cartoonish and Charleston/Jazz Age style. There is one dance segment called The Chameleon and another with the voice of Betty Boop singing "Chameleon Days". Witty dialogue, lots of humor and visual jokes, it's a movie that is sure to delight you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Life and Times of Early 20th Century Freak April 26 2004
Just before giving us the campy "Purple Rose of Cairo", Woody Allen created "Zelig", another very unique film. The title character is a man who, like a Chameleon, changes his physical appearance to blend in with whomever he is sharing present company. When getting acquainted with an obese man, Zelig suddenly develops a pot-belly; among Asians, Zelig chages appearance to resemble the people near him; no matter how different the person in Zelig's company, he changes to adapt.
Mia Farrow plays a psychiatrist (an unusual occupation for a woman in the 1920s & 30s) determined to figure this case out. The predictable romantic involvement ensuing adds to the confusion. The film is enveloped in countless news real exerpts and newspaper headlines. The elaborate "joke" may have been even more effective if kept to a shorter format. A 30 minute short is not always improved by an 80 minute feature film.
The Woody Allen character is depicted as not only a curiosity or a freak of nature, but as someone incapable of funtioning independently. A human chameleon may be a curiosity, but it does not render an intelligent person as helpless and in need of guarded confinement. Although offering many chuckles and even big laughs, the idea of caging someone who is different, treating him like an "E.T." or "Elephant Man". Our society has not fully evolved to accept such differences. I'm not certain if this film is an argument for or against acceptance of human curiosities. Although the special effects, mainly authentic "aged film footage" and period music are outstanding, the story line is somewhat disturbing.****
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Human nature - more or less - under a very funny microscope
BIG BIG FAN OF WOODY. Woody Allen is Zelig and Zelig is Woody Allen. Every Human nature - more or less - under a very funny microscope. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Mona
4.0 out of 5 stars Woody does trial like film
You can read through these reviews some take it from different angles history, personality, the therapist..to me it shows the effects here in black and white.. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Anthony Marinelli
1.0 out of 5 stars Yuk. Boring.
Need I say more? Woody has done so much better than this boring documentary style drivel. Stay away from this one.
Published 4 months ago by kevin
5.0 out of 5 stars The "WoodMan" does it again.
Another Woody Allen gem. The premise is very interesting and the film itself is well shot (in black & white) and of course well acted with ALL the Woody wit you've come to love... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Greg B.
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Woody's very best
Amazing technically, with a lot to say about society, conformity, and how we see ourselves.

This brilliantly made mock documentary about a 'human chameleon' in the 1920s... Read more
Published on April 14 2011 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars One of Woody's very best
Amazing technically, with a lot to say about society, conformity, and how we see ourselves.

This brilliantly made mock documentary about a 'human chameleon' in the 1920s... Read more
Published on April 14 2011 by K. Gordon
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the foremost films of Woody Allen
Allen was in a surrealistic mood when he made this film. The powerful content about Zelig in the thirties is a bitter gaze about a disfunctional , a low level person , an example... Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by Hiram Gomez Pardo
5.0 out of 5 stars Yes, It's Allen's "Citizen Kane"
Loved this when it came out. And after watching it again I was determined to post a review and compare it to the Orson Welles masterpiece. Then I saw someone had already done so! Read more
Published on May 31 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars The social camelion
New York 1928.
"I wanna be liked". A statement by Leonard Zelig under a hypnosis session. Read more
Published on May 14 2004 by T. ANDREASSON
5.0 out of 5 stars A Nugget Found
"ZELIG" is one of the reasons I subscribe to cable TV.
In the desert sand and boggy quagmire of standard TV, it takes sifting through more than a few channels to find a few... Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2004 by Amazon Customer
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