Woody Allen: A Documentary (15)

Film image

The ViewLondon Review

StarStarStarStarNo Star
Review byMatthew Turner08/06/2012

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 113 mins

Enjoyable, engaging documentary that's a must-see for Woody Allen fans and features a wealth of fascinating material, though there have been some questionable cuts from a longer version of the film and it largely side-steps any discussion of Allen's private life.

What's it all about?
Directed by Robert B. Weide, Woody Allen: A Documentary began life as a 3 hour 15 minute documentary for American TV, but has been cut down to a more audience-friendly running time for its theatrical release. Using extensive clips and interviews with a large number of Woody's collaborators and contemporaries (including a lengthy, comprehensive interview with the man himself), Weide traces Allen's early career, which began in writing jokes and stand-up comedy, and his origins as a filmmaker (turning to direction and insisting on creative control after the studio messed with his screenplay for What's New Pussycat?). The film also includes a chronological trawl through the highlights of his extensive filmography; Allen has made, on average, a film a year since 1969.

The Good
Weide has assembled a terrific line-up of talking heads that includes actors (Scarlett Johansson, Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton), key collaborators (cinematographer Gordon Willis, producer Letty Aronson, who, it turns out, is Allen's sister, plus co-writer Marshall Brickman) and contemporaries such as Martin Scorsese, although Mia Farrow is notable by her absence and her presence in his films doesn't get the attention it deserves as a result.

In addition, Weide has unearthed some terrific behind-the-scenes footage, such as out-takes of Allen cracking up during the filming of Sleeper and some B-roll from You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, which provides a fascinating insight into both his directorial methods and the different needs of his actors (in this case Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, both interviewed); in general, Allen doesn't like to give his actors much direction and rarely does more than one take, which appears to unnerve some and thrill others.

The Great
The film is packed with intriguing details, such as the fact that Allen still writes every screenplay on the same old fashioned typewriter, as well as surprising personal details, such as a moving clip of his mother (shot by Allen himself) regretting that she wasn't warmer towards him as a child and wondering if that's why he can be a little cold. On top of that, it's delightful to see Allen's reaction to Midnight in Paris, which has given him long sought-after box office success.

The only real problem with the film is that some questionable decisions seem to have been made in the cutting down of the TV version, most notably the exclusion of (the more or less autobiographical) Radio Days, while the film disappointingly (if understandably) sidesteps the later stages of his private life. Also, there's not nearly enough of his fabled jazz band.

Worth seeing?
Woody Allen: A Documentary is an engaging and enjoyable film that's a treat for Woody Allen fans. Recommended.

Film Trailer

Woody Allen: A Documentary (15)
Be the first to review Woody Allen: A Documentary...
01 Focus (15)

Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro

02 Selma (12A)

David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tim Roth

03 Far from the Madding Crowd (tbc)

Carey Mulligan, Tom Sturridge, Matthias Schoenaert...

04 Chappie (tbc)

Hugh Jackman, Sigourney Weaver, Sharlto Copley

05 A Most Violent Year (15)

Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo

Content updated: 22/04/2019 07:44

Latest Film Reviews

Film of the Week

Foxcatcher (15)

Steve Carrell and Channing Tatum star in this real life inspired story of Olympic talent, fierce competition and murder.

UK Box Office Top 5 Films