Seeming to sacrifice depth for breadth, Weide falls into the trap of merely skimming the surface of the comedian, writer, director, filmmaker that is Woody Allen.
Accounting for significant life events, all major films, and changes in career, the documentary ambitiously attempts to cover from Allen’s childhood up to the present day. In the midst of these pivotal instances, Weide also delves into the more microscopic moments that characterise Allen’s day-to-day living.
Most memorably we see Allen typing on a rather ancient looking typewriter, which he goes on to say he purchased when he was sixteen under the guarantee it would never need replacing. When asked how he edits his work, he reaches for a pair of silver scissors and some staplers, explaining that he rewrites, cuts, and staples his scripts.
- Though no expert or particular admirer of Allen’s work, it is undeniable that Woody Allen has an idiosyncratic personality that instils curiosity – it is this that led me to watch the film. Certainly, it is the interviews and short discussions with Allen himself that engage the audience, but there are too few of these to ever really immerse the viewer.
Numerously criticised for a near bypassing of Allen’s controversial affair with his and Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter in 1992, it seems that many were looking not for a descriptive catalogue of Allen’s oeuvre, but a deeper portrait of Allen outside of his filmmaking career.
It was never going to be easy to document the life of such a prolific filmmaker, especially one who took years to pin-down and agree to the actual filming, and even then asking not to have to be interviewed in the film (a request which was declined, thank goodness).
Woody Allen: A Documentary as a whole lends itself to a delightful homage, rather than pervasive portrait, and Allen remains as elusive as ever.
Woody Allen: A Documentary, dir. Robert B. Weide (2012, USA)