Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)

A documentary on Woody Allen that trails him on his movie sets and follows him back to Brooklyn as he visits his childhood haunts.
  • 7.7 /10.0 IMDB Rating:
  • DatePublished:
  • 2022-06-14 Added:
  • Writer:
  • Robert B. Weide, Director:
  • Producer:

Trailer:

9 / 10

Treat for Movie Buffs

I've just seen the DVD version of the documentary, which originally aired on PBS, on American Masters. The DVD is 2 parts in total of about three and a half hours.

This wonderful documentary, directed by Robert B. Weide, traces the life and career of the movie master Woody Allen. The early footage of Allen's stand-up comic days is extremely funny, as are the archival clips of Allen as he began to appear on national shows such as Steve Allen, Johhny Carson, and Dick Cavett. As he progressed into movies, the film tracks the stages of his early comic movies such as "Take the Money and Run"(when I first noticed Allen) and "Bananas", into more serious fare such as "Hannah and Her Three Sisters" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors", as well as his more recent movies made in Europe such as "Match Point", "Wimbledon" and "Midnight in Paris"

What I found particularly interesting was Allen explaining why he did certain movies, the great as well as the clunkers. He explains what his thought processes were, how he writes them, and what goes into directing them. The film is also chocked with interviews of fellow writers and collaborators, actors and actresses he has worked with, and certain film critics. Also, there is a good amount of time devoted to hearing from his sister, as to what Woody was like as boy and their relationship today.

I've followed Allen's career for decades, the good and the bad,and I felt this film gave me a real insight into what makes Woody Allen tick. Plus it is so packed with vintage footage of TV and film that I was engrossed despite the length of the movie.

7 / 10

The best of Woody Allen

This documentary may not go too far below the surface of Woody Allen's persona but for fans of his films it offers a lot to enjoy. It looks at his career from his earliest days as a joke writer via stand-up comedian on to his film career up until his biggest commercial success Midnight in Paris. It was interesting to see the young Allen, who looked surprisingly ungeeky it has to be said. And it was good to see the path that led to his talents ending up in cinema. But the real pleasure of this documentary is in simply revisiting so many of his films. Virtually all of his movies from the period that covers Take the Money and Run to Shadows and Fog are represented with clips. While, several other key movies after this are featured too, although perhaps though it would have been better if more of his unsuccessful films were shown as a point of comparison. But time restraints do limit things I guess – I saw the shorter theatrical cut – and it was really just fun revisiting the good ones to be honest.

For the reasons mentioned above, it would probably be fair to say that this is a documentary primarily aimed at people who are Allen fans to begin with. The wealth of well-chosen clips really is very good, while the selection of talking heads add good value. It's basically a pure celebration of Allen's work and it does well to show the sheer volume of quality he has produced over the years. Very enjoyable.

8 / 10

Personal, not too long, funny and interesting

A long - the three-hour version must surely be better than the shortened edited-for-cinema version - but engaging and well-made documentary about Woody Allen, one of my favourite directors. It makes chronological little jumps, but all good, delving from his growing up in New York to where he is today, from being a joke-writer for US columns to doing his own stand-up comedy (for which he is still grossly underestimated), to script-writing, acting and directing. The bit about him being an "actor's director" is really inspirational. He's had ups and downs, his marriages and scandals are a bit on display; him being married to his "former" daughter is toned down. His writing process is envisaged, actors and producers interviewed and it's all personal, never showy. Allen found out that "Manhattan" had won the Oscar for best film by reading about it in the paper the day after. So, all in all, very nice and recommendable.

10 / 10

Woody Allen: A Documentary - portrait of an artist

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.

8 / 10

A revealing and entertaining portrayal

When the history of cinema is written a hundred years from now, Woody Allen's name will pop up quite a few times. Actor. Writer. Director. Comedian. The quintessential Jewish-American man. From Seinfeld characters to Family Guy to The Simpsons, so much of American pop culture is littered with characters based off the persona that Allen immortalised.

But in Woody Allen: A Documentary, documentarian Robert B. Weide seeks to get inside the mind of this endlessly parodied, forcibly stereotyped individual. Allen is his usual self-deprecating Jewish-American self, but it's the supporting cast – Diane Keaton, Naomi Watts, Scarlett Johansson, et al. – who really paint the best picture. We learn about Allen's directing techniques; what made him such a magnetic 'leading man'; and how his personal life affected (or didn't, really) his professional life.

As all movie fans will know, Allen is responsible for some of the greatest movies of the modern era. Annie Hall is constantly cited as a great Hollywood classic, as are other accomplishments like Hannah And Her Sisters and Manhattan. The documentary moves chronologically through his back catalogue, discussing his intentions about each movie, the filmmaking process, and the critical reception. You listen to the cast, his family, and Allen himself discuss just how much of himself was present in his movies. What I loved most about the film is that it doesn't pander to Allen. Yes, this is a documentary about the man, so it does celebrate his brilliance as an artist. But Weide doesn't hold back in exploring the mistakes he made, both in his personal and professional life. In particular, his relationship with cinematic muse Mia Farrow is chronicled, painting Woody as a very conflicted and somewhat selfish man.

What you take away from this documentary is appreciation for what Allen has achieved, and what he has brought to modern cinema. To continue to beat to his own drum at a time when studios have pigeonholed directors so much is admirable, especially when he's making one film a year. It's so easy (and so romantic) to see cinema as an artform. Woody Allen shows that it is a skill, a technique constantly being honed. Good stuff.