When Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris was released last year, there were some critics who wondered if the long-time director/writer would ever be able to repeat the huge successes he’d had in the late 1970s with such great films as Annie Hall and Manhattan. But he proved them wrong, and the film went on to make (as of this writing) over 56 million dollars in ticket sales — his highest grossing film ever.
That’s just one of the interesting points made in the new film, Woody Allen: A Documentary, a very long (195 minutes) and very interesting take on one of the most productive director/screenwriters this country has ever produced. (The only comparable person would be Sweden’s Ingmar Bergman, who is, of course, one of Allen’s heroes.) The film takes us back to the very beginning, where we learn that Allen, at the age of 17 and writing jokes for others, was already making more money than his parents. Amazingly, by the end of the 1960s he was offered a director’s position simply on the merits of his writing, and took off from there.
While the film can’t possibly cover every movie Allen has made, there is much that is covered, and the information comes from a variety of sources — to start with, Allen himself, who appears in new footage and older interviews, but also Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Martin Scorsese, and numerous stars who have appeared in different productions, such as Mira Sorvino, John Cusack and Owen Wilson. Regarding Allen’s personal life — that is, the scandal involving Allen and Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter (whom he eventually married), this too is dealt with, though not with the sort of breast-beating many might like to see. And, not surprisingly, Mia Farrow does not appear in the film, except for being in clips from Allen’s movies.
Overall, I found the documentary a fascinating gem — particularly when Allen shares with viewers some of his work habits. For one, he still uses an old manual typewriter he bought sometime in the 1950s, and he keeps a drawer full of paper scraps with ideas for stories that he saves and then goes through for inspiration. This and many other details make this film worth your time. If you’d like, let me know what your favorite Woody Allen film is, and why.