Thursday, July 27, 2017


The nebbish persona belies the man.

Woody Allen, 81, has been making films his way for over fifty years. In "Woody Allen: A Documentary" we learn that the iconic auteur never takes any time off. Not counting Monday nights when he plays clarinet.

Martin Scorsese says of Allen, "Not everybody has the staying power, not everybody has the tenacity, and not everybody has so much to say."

Born Allan Stewart Konigsberg Dec. 1, 1935, in Brooklyn, New York, he adopted the pen name Woody Allen in his teens when he was earning more money than his parents by writing one-liners for other writers and performers.

He also got married in his teens, and a couple years later divorced. In early stand-up he said that his wife was immature. For example, she'd walk right into the bathroom when he was taking a bath and sink his boats.

Featuring commentary by Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Dick Cavett, Leonard Maltin, and others, including his younger sister, the documentary offers insights into the 4-time Oscar-winning director of such disparate films as Sleeper and Hannah and Her Sisters.

According to Tony Roberts, "Oh, he's definitely a little nutty."

In the late-50s he went from writing comedy (with Mel Brooks for Sid Caesar) to doing stand-up at the insistence of a prescient manager.

From this he was given the opportunity to write a film, What's New, Pussycat? But the studio butchered his writing so badly, Allen determined to never again compromise creative control.
Woody Allen is not motivated by the product that sells. He's motivated what interests him. As a filmmaker he doesn't get the most money, but he gets the most respect.

There is no one else like him...except for Charlie Chaplin. They both started out making slapstick, and wound up moving toward drama. Each defines the classic auteur as writer, director, and star. And the persona of each has seeped into the culture.

The 2-part documentary, easily found online, grants unprecedented access to the filmmaker's process. He doesn't use a computer. He writes with a De Luxe typewriter. As soon as he finishes one project, he starts another. In this way he has directed 54 movies.

On his first five films: "One could say they were essentially trivial and be right." He adds, "I put a higher value on the tragic muse than the comic muse."

If you've never seen a Woody Allen film, start with Take the Money and Run or Bananas, then move on to Annie Hall or Manhattan.

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