27 November 2011

Take the funny and run

Robert Weide made an informative, but stolid documentary on Allen. The first part is quite good as it details his early life - a section of his biography unknown to me - and the "earlier, funnier movies". But those movies are where I quibble. Possessed of wonderful one-liners, superb timing, and anarchic humor, the documentary itself displays none of this wit. Somehow the interviews manage to make Allen boring. A writer and his persona are separate entities, of course, but nowhere than here has it been more stark. When a film clip is shown, the documentary almost literally shines. But then it cuts back to the talking heads. The formula of presentation is quite monotonous - and this is a documentary about an acclaimed comedian! I had hoped that Wiede would be as fast and loose as Allen. Instead, the funny is framed and displayed like a museum piece. The second part is even worse as it does naught to belie the image of Allen as "serious artist". The encomiums from the actors are justly celebratory, but in all the critical kowtowing feel more gushing than revealing. I was disappointed that there was more celebration than insight. This documentary was more like a primer for people who had never seen an Allen film before. The documentary is not a bad one, but it could have been as full of zest and color as Allen's films themselves.

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