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Woody Allen: A Documentary

Woody Allen: A Documentary (2011)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 1
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 0

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Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 1,274

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Movie Info

Robert Weide's profile of Woody Allen chronicles Allen's career from his days writing for Sid Caesar in the 1950s to the present. Featuring footage of him at home and on a movie set, the documentary also includes a tour of his childhood haunts in Brooklyn and remarks from Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Penelope Cruz, John Cusack, Larry David, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Diane Keaton, Martin Landau, Louise Lasser, Sean Penn, Tony Roberts, Chris Rock, and Mira Sorvino. ~

Unrated,

Documentary, Television

Feb 14, 2012

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All Critics (18) | Top Critics (1) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (1)

It's a collaborative effort with Woody (who, unusually, looks happy to be interviewed), so we see him at home (showing off a typewriter he bought for $40 at 16), writing on his bed and standing outside his childhood home in Brooklyn.

June 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The story of Woody Allen, however, is ripe for a 'ripped from the headlines!' movie, which is why it's so nice to see rather a respectful, unsensationalised documentary on him.

September 8, 2013 Full Review Source: Trespass
Trespass

Appropriately fawning.

July 6, 2012 Full Review Source: Ultra Culture
Ultra Culture

For film lovers with a general awareness of Allen's work, this is a richly-rewarding, insightful documentary which can only make more of them want to become super fans.

June 13, 2012 Full Review Source: Birmingham Post
Birmingham Post

Woody Allen: A Documentary is an advertorial for Allen's immense back catalogue of work and an affirmation of his reemergence as a filmmaking powerhouse in the last decade.

June 11, 2012 Full Review Source: 2UE That Movie Show
2UE That Movie Show

It's not a film to be missed.

June 10, 2012 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Allen is endearing in his belief that any of his success has been a happy accident and that he has yet to make a great film that will stand the test of time.

June 8, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

This documentary is a pleasure, though we don't get too far beneath the surface.

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

There is more to Woody Allen: A Documentary than its modest title suggests, although perhaps not quite enough to justify swapping that "a" for "the".

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Daily Telegraph
Daily Telegraph

A breezy distillation of Allen's body of work, if inevitably glossing over his colourful personal life.

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: What Culture
What Culture

I could have watched this armada forever. The clips alone, from Sleeper, Annie Hall, Zelig and others, pageant his greatness.

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Financial Times
Financial Times

It is guaranteed to drive audiences back to his films for repeat viewings; no bad thing as far as this reviewer is concerned.

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: The List
The List

How disappointing.

June 7, 2012 Full Review Source: Little White Lies
Little White Lies

An engaging and enjoyable film that's a treat for Woody Allen fans. Recommended.

June 6, 2012 Full Review Source: ViewLondon
ViewLondon

The doco only offers some insights, but even a minor glimpse into the notoriously private life of Allen is a treat.

June 5, 2012 Full Review Source: Quickflix
Quickflix

One for the fans, Weide's doc is a pleasant career overview but if you're looking for something more probing, it'll drive you Bananas.

May 30, 2012 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Robert Weide's portrait of the artist and the man, Woody Allen, is a comprehensive document made no less captivating by its conventional approach.

May 28, 2012 Full Review Source: Screen-Space
Screen-Space

The whole thing would be a bit of a hagiography but for Woody's own comments.

May 17, 2012 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Audience Reviews for Woody Allen: A Documentary

Watching PBS' documentary on Woody Allen is like spending an afternoon with an old friend. It's enormously entertaining, but despite a running time of over three hours and the full participation of Woody Allen and almost all of his notable, still-living associates, it feels less like an in-depth examination of Allen's life than a light-hearted overview of it. In its admirable but foolhardy attempt to cover every facet of Allen's life and career, it's forced to gloss over a lot of topics and speed through decades in minutes. The fact remains, though, that Woody Allen: A Documentary is enthralling, hilarious, and guaranteed to evoke powerful nostalgia from all Woody Allen fans.

This movie's closest parallel is probably Wild Man Blues, another documentary for which Allen opened himself up. Wild Man Blues captured Allen naturally, which made it loose and intimate, but Woody Allen: A Documentary consists entirely of staged interviews and archive footage, which gives it a more official feel.

And while Wild Man Blues was micro - looking at Allen over the course of a month - Woody Allen: A Documentary is macro - starting with Allen's birth, and going all the way up to the success of Midnight in Paris. So vast is its focus that there were obviously a lot of decisions that needed to be made about what to keep and what to cut. I have some quibbles with what they've chosen to include and exclude, and just about everyone else will too. In trying to do so much, they've prevented themselves from being able to wholly satisfy anyone, other than the curious non-fan looking for a quick overview of what Woody Allen is all about.

Woody Allen: A Documentary was written, produced and directed for PBS' American Masters series by Robert B. Weide. Weide, a career chronicler of funny people, has directed documentaries on the Marx brothers, Mort Sahl, W.C. Fields and Lenny Bruce. He's also executive-produced the entire run of Larry David's Curb Your Enthusiasm and directed half of its episodes.

Weide's most relevant work with regard to Woody Allen: A Documentary is Marx Brothers in a Nutshell, a 1982 documentary he made for PBS. His first project out of film school, it was produced by Allen's long-time agent/producer Charles H. Joffe, and, likely as a result of this, managed to land Woody Allen as a talking-head contributor. This led to Weide allegedly spending years trying to convince Allen to participate in another documentary, this time with himself as the subject.

Allen was quite reclusive in the '80s and '90s but started to open up and make more public appearances in the '00s, so it makes sense that he'd finally agree to this project in 2010. Filmed over 18 months, Woody Allen: A Documentary boasts "unprecedented access" to Allen, although he's no more revealing, candid or emotional than he's been in any of his press junkets of the last decade. He says a lot of the same things we've been hearing him say forever, although he's charming and hilarious as always.

He also offers many seemingly mundane tidbits that are likely to thrill Woody Allen obsessives - like a tour of his childhood neighborhood, and a look at the typewriter on which he's typed up every single one of his movies.

Weide is clearly a Woody Allen fan, and this movie was made for other fans. The tone is loving, verging on worshipful. None of the many criticisms leveled against Allen over the decades are addressed (outside of a brief acknowledgement from Leonard Maltin and Mariel Hemingway that he's made 'some clunkers'). Weide doesn't invite anyone with any remotely harsh things to say about Allen, and doesn't ask any tough questions. If he had levelled those tough questions, it's unlikely he would've gotten any answers from Allen, but it might have been nice of him to try. All in all though, it's an interesting journey through the life of one of cinema's greatest voices.
January 27, 2013
JonathanHutchings
Jonathan Hutchings

Super Reviewer

It sidesteps the far more interesting inner-depths of Allen's mind (and history), but as a look at his writing process and filmography, this documentary is fascinating, insightful, and satisfying.
December 9, 2012
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

"Woody Allen: A Documentary" is no great work of art, but it's a very thorough overview of Allen's life and work. Mr. Allen allows himself to be filmed quite a bit and gives thoughtful commentary on a range of subjects.

Ultimately, it makes Allen out to seem like a rather shallow craftsman, not a true artist. Not sure that was the intention of the project! I feel that Allen had a brief period of true artistry in the late 1970s. In my view, his last great work of art was "Stardust Memories," which I'm confident will someday be perceived as the masterpiece it is.
October 29, 2012
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

An revealing and informative look at the life and career of one of Hollywood's most prolific writer/directors. Definitely slanted in Mr. Allen's favor as some of the more controversial topics seem a little glossed and minimized.
July 18, 2012
flixsterman
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Woody Allen: El documental (ES)
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