Monday, November 21, 2011

The Woody Allen doc we've been waiting for

Tune in tonight to PBS’s American Masters at 9 pm to catch Part 2 of Woody Allen: A Documentary by Robert Weide. PBS promotes this as the “ultimate” bio of Allen and for once the evidence lives up to the hype. I found the first part, which aired last night, absolutely absorbing. It took us from Allen’s childhood when he started writing jokes for local newspapers and comedians, to being a stand-up comic in the 1960s, to his first screenwriting (What’s New Pussycat? 1965) and movies (Take the Money and Run, Bananas) to his ever-maturing filmmaking and seminal pictures such as Annie Hall, Manhattan and Interiors. Allen of course has long eschewed media interviews. And Weide says the filmmaker has long been his “big ‘get.” The PBS series is called American Masters. But this is a masterful telling of Allen’s personal and professional life. It not only spends extensive time with Allen himself - in his apartment, revisiting his old Brooklyn neighbourhood - but draws on numerous interviews from friends and colleagues, from his long time producers Jack Rollins and Charles H. Joffe and cinematographer  Gordon Willis, to friends like Dick Cavett and Martin Scorsese, to actors Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Diane Keaton, Louise Lasser and Tony Roberts. There is plenty here – an enjoyable feast of discussion and reflections about America’s most European director who has been churning out a film a year for the past 40 years. Allen is oblivious to critical acclaim. That’s probably a good thing. Entirely devoted to his work he’s famous for not having attended the Academy Awards to claim his Oscars. That’s because he doesn’t think they bestow true honour on a film – any film. He calls it “favouritism,” unlike winning an award for an objective competition such as an athletic event. We also shouldn’t be surprised when he says he would have preferred to be a famous jazz player (he’s legendary for his low key Monday night clarinet performances as part of a group at the Cafe Carlyle) or the fact he doesn’t know “the first thing” about filmmaking when he started into movies. But it’s kind of a surprise when he says of what many consider his greatest movie Manhattan, that he was so embarrassed about it he offered to make it up to his then company United Artists by making another film without compensation.....I can’t wait to see Part 2. (Part 1 can also be viewed at PBS’s American Masters’ web site

No comments:

Post a Comment