The director of How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and a number of Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes directs this entry in the American Masters series, this time focussed on the confrontational, hard-working, prolific, funny, maudlin, still working, nebbish, brand unto himself, Woody Allen.
This nearly 3 hour long documentary covers the entirety of Allen's life, going back to his parents and grandparents. And while the film covers a lot of ground - from Woody's early writing days before moving into stand-up and then through to writing film and then directing - there are still a number of omissions. What about his actual first directorial effort, What's Up Tiger Lily? Or the voice work for Antz? Or the large number of films during the 90's and early 2000's that were just really no good?
It borders on hagiography - there is little dissent from the view that Allen is an unmitigated genius. While, yes, Allen is indeed an important cultural voice, to argue that he is without fault (as this documentary seems to) is ignorant at best and wilfully rewriting history at worst. But, there is little wonder this is the approach taken - this is for the American Masters series and there would little point in tearing down one of those masters. There are interviews with long-time collaborators, various actors, producing partners, agents and one or two ex-wives. Mia Farrow (and Soon-Yi at that) are notable by their absences.
Perhaps you think I'm being too hard on the film or Allen. Perhaps so. I enjoy some of Allen's films; not everyone does. Allen is an intensely interesting figure, as much for what he says in his films as how he says it. While I certainly would have preferred a fuller picture of Allen the man and Allen the artist, the film does do well in following Allen through a 6 decade long career.