Woody Allen: A Documentary review

The life and films of Woody Allen, explored through interviews, archive footage, and classic clips.

Following Allen’s life chronologically, focussing mainly on his films, how they came about and the reaction they received, the 2-hour documentary doesn’t delve especially deeply into his psychology and only touches on aspects of his personal life. What is left is a film that although attempting to be comprehensive is rather straightforward and lacking invention.

The clips, old interviews, photographs, and press clippings are interesting and entertaining, providing good detail of Allen’s progression as an artist in themselves. There are plenty of talking heads from numerous superstars which invariably become mundane ass-kissing that will be familiar to anyone who watches DVD extra features (“he really is the best actors’ director I’ve worked with” etc. etc.) and, unfortunately, the film’s apparent highlight, a rare interview with the man himself, doesn’t actually give away an awful lot. At least the film’s approach isn’t entirely fawning, a central message being that an artist doesn’t always create a masterpiece - Allen has never tried to continually better his efforts, choosing instead to explore new avenues, be that in style or in theme, sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes not.

Probably better suited to the small screen, as it was initially intended, and with little to admire in terms of filmmaking, the subject is nonetheless inevitably interesting, inspiring, and amusing by itself. While Woody Allen fans will revel in the collection of sharp one-liners and familiar clips from so many classic films, there isn’t anything new or especially insightful for them and it perhaps has more to offer those less familiar with his work or aware of why he is one of the very few filmmakers who deserves to be labelled a genius.

3 out of 5

13th Jun 2012 | On IMDb