It’s been in my Netflix queue for ages, and I finally watched it. If you’re a fan of Woody Allen as I am, it’s terrific stuff.
Directed by Robert B. Weide for the PBS American Masters series, Woody Allen: A Documentary gets a level of access to Woody I’d never seen before. It starts from his family beginnings and his humble upbringing as Allan Stewart Konigsberg in Brooklyn and brings us all the way to the release of Midnight in Paris, and all of the struggle with godlessness and the fear of death in between.
Woody famously never does “bonus features” or director commentary on the digital releases of his movies. Using his filmography as a timeline, the movie ably covers much you would want to know about his work as a writer, a comic, an actor, a director and, ultimately, an auteur. It’s about the work of a tireless artist who, like all artists, has hits and failures, both professional and personal. (Yes, there is candid coverage of the Mia Farrow/Soon-Yi Previn situation.) The point is that he just keeps going. As his casting associate pointed out in the documentary, even during the legal turmoil of the bitter custody battle, he was never late for a casting appointment. The day after he finishes editing one movie, he starts writing the next.
The movie features fascinating interviews with his sister Letty Aronson; his agents and producers Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins; writers, film critics, and actors from his films, like Tony Roberts, Diane Keaton, Dianne Wiest, Naomi Watts, Owen Wilson, Scarlett Johansson, Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Mira Sorvino; as well as Dick Cavett, Chris Rock and director Martin Scorsese.
The film is in two parts, together totaling just over four full hours. Thoroughly worthwhile.