Allen in his first film as star and director, Take the Money and Run (1969)
my many favorite Woody Allen quotes, the most often quoted is:“I don’t want to achieve immortality
through my work, I want to achieve it through not dying,” Woody Allen once
said.While he may not achieve the
latter, the former is inevitable.
Masters premieres “Woody Allen: A Documentary,” Robert Weide’s masterful
documentary which spans the amazingly and innovatively creative and prolific
career of an American original.
“Not everybody has
so much to say about life as Woody Allen,” Martin Scorsese comments.Scorsese
also talks about the “two different New York’s” that come from each of their
cinematic points of view:The
former’s vision embodied in the rough and tumble “Mean Streets” with a young
Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel, versus the latters’ embodied in “Annie Hall”
and “Manhattan,” the pristinely beautiful New York City panoramic backdrops
accompanied by a precisely coordinated George Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue
is peerless,” said Chris Rock.“Maybe Babe Ruth can be compared to him. Most people last 20 years.He’s been doing this for over 40.”“He’s the best actors’ director I’ve
worked with,” said Naomi Watts.
the New York premiere at The Film Forum, whose attendees included Jerry
Seinfeld, Dick Cavett, and Tony Roberts, writer Director and Producer Weide
talked about his relentless yet genial pursuit of Allen for almost two
decades.Initially, Allen declined;
concerned about a retrospective while he was still in the middle of his
career.Three years ago, Weide
approached Allen again and said “it’s time.”This time Allen agreed.Weide, who had done documentaries about
The Marx Brothers, WC Fields, and Lenny Bruce, was particularly excited about
doing a piece about “someone I experienced in my own
two travel, both figuratively and literally, to Allen’s Brooklyn neighborhood,
where he recalls his childhood, the parks he played in and the majestic movie
theaters where he saw the films that shaped his creative life.
Allen’s and Diane Keaton’s Alvy Singer and Annie Hall’s staying up all night
talking on a bench in the shadow of the 59th Street Bridge is one of
the most famous and romantic images in film history.The documentary also solves one of
the great mysteries that have bewildered romantics worldwide since 1979- the
location of that park bench.
was a pain in the neck to film.I had to get up at three in
the morning,” Allen recalled.“We
had to bring our own bench.”
about Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz, Allen made a general statement about
acting:“If you’re an artist, you
have to say something.It
can’t just be technique.”
four hour program, which airs in two parts Sunday and Monday evening November
20st and 21nd, is the journey of a kid from Midwood who
started writing jokes for columnists, to writing and directing plays at Tamiment
in The Poconos, to writing for the legendary Sid Caesar, to doing his own
standup, to writing and directing his own films, and developing an incomparable
and unique cinematic voice.
still works at the same typewriter he bought as a teenager from a man who
promised that the writing machine would outlast its new owner.He reaches into a drawer of hand
scrawled notes.“I don’t care about
commercial success and as a result I rarely achieve it,” Allen
to his self-deprecating side which became the core of his film persona, he
said:“I’ve achieved everything
I’ve set out to do:I became a
writer, a movie actor, then a director.I wanted to play jazz and I’ve played in parades and in joints in New
Orleans.And I still feel like
somehow I got screwed.” Fortunately, his audience has not.
a fun and emotional ride.
Retro contributor Eddy Friedfeld teaches The History of American Comedy at NYU
those who missed part one last night, they can stream now on http://pbs.org/americanmasters. Part two will
stream there after tonight’s broadcast.
U.S. DVD release is via New Video & people can preorder now at Shop PBS.