Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Woody Allen: A Documentary

by Drew Martin
When I was living in Europe two decades ago, I asked a young Englishman what the Brits made of Woody Allen. This Londoner personally thought that Allen was brilliant but said he disrupted a comforting stereotype they maintained that all Americans were shallow and limited in conversation.

New York was my first city and Allen was the first real voice of Manhattan for me; neurotic but smart. This past weekend I watched a two-part movie about his life and career, Woody Allen: A Documentary. I was surprised by Allen's candidness and accessibility for the camera. In this film we see his workspace; a corner of his apartment anchored by his Olympia manual typewriter. He even digs into his drawers to show us his thought process; a pile of notes that he sifts through on his bed as someone might squirrel through an overturned trash bin looking for a winning lottery ticket. My favorite comment by Allen is when he talks about getting more pleasure from a project he that is "enthused over" and fails with than with something he knows he can do well:

"I put a higher value on the tragic muse than the comic muse. I have always felt that tragic writing, tragic theater, tragic film confronts reality head-on, and doesn't satirize it, tease it, kid it, deflect it, opt out with some kind of gag at the last minute."

Woody Allen: A Documentary is a wonderful sampling and coherent narrative for one of our generation's most prolific filmmakers, respected directors and genius comedians.