Woody Allen: A Documentary (3 stars)

Woody Allen: A Documentary

A funny and occasionally insightful overview of the American filmmaker

As a filmmaker Woody Allen is anything but showy; his films focus on characters, conversations and the absurd comedy of life, and whilst they are often beautifully photographed, Allen’s pictures, turned out at a steady rate of one a year, are defined by his words. It’s appropriate then that this documentary from Curb Your Enthusiasm director Robert B Weide is similarly words-driven and stylistically straightforward, mixing interviews and plenty of film clips to offer a funny and occasionally insightful overview of Allen’s 40 years and counting as an essential American director. Despite Allen’s publicity-shy reputation, Weide has pinned him down for several extensive new interviews, including a fascinating look at his process of sifting through ideas when starting a new film, as well as many candid admissions of his low opinion of a lot of his own work. Allen was so disappointed with Manhattan – arguably his best film – that he offered to make another film for free if the studio agreed not to release it. Fortunately they refused.

Weide allows plenty of time for interesting sections on Allen’s personal and professional relationships with Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow and their influence on his writing, and briefly touches on the scandal of his affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter, by offering Allen’s perspective on the ensuing press frenzy. The film feels somewhat rushed, especially in the second half when Weide focuses on Allen’s working relationships with his actors and his easy directorial style, so it is not surprising to learn that this UK cinema release is a cut-down version of a much longer American TV special. But there is still plenty to enjoy here for the Woody fan, and it is guaranteed to drive audiences back to his films for repeat viewings; no bad thing as far as this reviewer is concerned.

Selected release from Fri 8 June.

Woody Allen: A Documentary Trailer

Woody Allen: A Documentary

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 1h 53min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Robert B. Weide
  • UK release: 8 June 2012

This UK cinema release of Weide's documentary is cut down from a much longer American TV special, which explains why it feels somewhat rushed. But there's much to enjoy, including extensive new interviews and a fascinating look at Allen's work process, and it's guaranteed to drive audiences back to his films.

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