The thinking person’s Forrest Gump, Woody Allen’s 1983 Zelig is a funny, atmospheric mock-documentary about the collision of one man’s manifest neuroses colliding with key moments in 20th-century history. Allen plays the title character, a self-effacing, timorous fellow with such a porous personality that he physically becomes a reflection of whoever he is with. Complex and painstaking, the film’s pre-Gump special effects manage to place Allen, buried under a series of makeup and prosthetic guises, in a number of scenes along with Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally, a pope at the Vatican, and famous guests at a garden party hosted by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Similar in tone and satire to some of Allen’s short, comic pieces published in The New Yorker magazine, Zelig is a one-note movie that takes its delicious time establishing the fullness of its central joke. It’s well worth the wait. —Tom Keogh
Actor, director, screenwriter, and playwright Woody Allen redefined film comedy during the 1970s, bringing a new measure of sophistication and personal complexity to the form. Born Allen Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn, NY, on December 1, 1935, he adopted his stage name at the age of 17, and in 1953 enrolled in NYU’s film program, and soon dropping out of school to begin writing for comedian David Alber. Two years later, Allen graduated to writing for television; during his five-year in television, his efforts won him an Emmy nomination. He eventually decided to try his hand as a stand-up performer. After slowly gaining a reputation on the New York-club circuit, he became a frequent talk show guest and in 1964 issued his self-titled debut comedy LP. With 1966’s What’s Up, Tiger Lily?, a puckish re-tooling of a Japanese spy thriller complete with his own story line and dubbed English dialogue, he made his directorial debut. In 1969 Allen directed two short films for a CBS television special… read more
Such magic. Woody Allen was so far ahead of his time in visualizing this film before the technology had become available. I sure of course, he would have written the film before ever thinking about the tech to produce it. Still is a hugely entertaining and witty film that makes you feel like you just got hugged at the end of it.
Notes on the series running in London through February 8.
L’incroyable caméléon – 11/06/2009
Certainement l’un des meilleurs Woody Allen dans la veine comique, que ce reportage déjanté autour de ce type qui, pour se faire aimer des autres, prend leur… read review
A mockumentary fueled by that typical ‘allenian’ verve, featuring occasional statements from real-life intellectuals playing themselves, all part of a comically unusual premise that pokes fun at neuroses… read review