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Spotlight on Woody

OUT NOW! WOODY ALLEN: A DOCUMENTARY has a great task in documenting Allen, but no strong statement.

Allen’s frenetically creative urge resurfaces on August 30 when To Rome with Love hits cinemas, so now’s a good time to prepare the ground. And one thing’s for sure: Weide’s documentary provides a lot of information. But does it all add up to a satisfying statement?

For those unfamiliar with Allen’s biography, this measured look at a noisy Brooklyn childhood, at early years as gag-writer and stand-up comedian on stage and TV and Allen’s long and mostly distinguished career as a filmmaker (including Oscar-absentee moments) is certainly entertaining. The same goes for interviews with muses Diane Keaton and Scarlett Johansson and an (albeit tepidly cautious) look at the shenanigans with Mia Farrow. Sex, humanity, angst-tinted comedy: it’s all there, but like those Allen films that miss the mark, it lacks sparkle.

It may be the density of material, with a pantheon of stars and film industry colleagues (Scorsese, Cusack, Wilson, Brolin, Watts, Hemingway) contributing commentary. Or it may be just be that Allen is his own worst enemy, quite evidently at odds with canonisation.

When he admits with appealing self-deprecation that he is still searching for the one great film that has “eluded me over the years”, we are reminded that he considers himself a work in progress. This is laudably honest, but such reservations embedded in a context of otherwise uniform admiration make for a strangely ambivalent statement.

Woody Allen: A Documentary | Directed by Robert B. Weide (USA 2012) documentary. Starts July 5