Sydney 2012 Review: WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY

When you hear the name Woody Allen, what comes to your mind? Is it the image of a brilliant writer and director whose career has spanned four decades, a man who faced negative publicity because of a love affair, or just scene after scene from your favorite Woody Allen films? Whatever your impression of this filmmaker is, chances are that after seeing Woody Allen: A Documentary, you will like him a little more, or at least want to see some of his films (again). 

From documentary maker Robert Weide, Woody Allen: A Documentary offers an entertaining and insightful look at the life of one of the most influential filmmakers in the history of cinema. It takes viewers from Allen's humble beginnings to his early success (of writing jokes for newspapers and already earning more than his parents by his late teens) to his long and remarkable film career both as an actor and a director.  We get to hear Allen's mother, sister, peers, colleagues, actors and actresses talking about him and their experiences knowing / living / working with him. Allen himself is also interviewed and his answers are generally brilliant and witty, as you would expect from someone who has written so many memorable lines. One thing that stands out in the documentary is how humble he is. For example, he talks with sincerity about how few of his films "turned out to be worth anything". 

There are many clips from Woody Allen's films that are shown in the documentary, including scenes from the critically acclaimed Annie Hall and Manhattan, the less well-received Stardust Memories, and the recent successes like Match Point. Those clips are wonderfully selected and cleverly edited into the film, and serve to illustrate the different styles of films that were made at different stages of this prolific director's career. It is impressive how absorbing these scenes still look on the big screen years after the films were originally made and released. 

Wooden Allen: A Documentary is a film that entertainingly tells the story of a filmmaker who has given the world a lot of great films, many of which have become timeless classics. The fact that everything that he has written since he was a teenager has been done on an old-fashioned typewriter and edited using his own 'cut and paste' technique should serve as a reminder for all writers (including myself) that it is good content rather than beautiful presentation that matters. What he probably has not thought about is how much his typewriter will be worth in the future. Hopefully, it will never be sold for money, however, because it should one day be displayed at a museum dedicated to a true genius in the world of cinema - Mr Woody Allen.  
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