Woody Allen: A Documentary (Blu-ray) (2012)
Interviews-Crew-Director Robert Weide
|Year Of Production||2012|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||Robert B. Weide|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.78:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Woody Allen, now approaching 77 years old, is someone the likes of whom we may never see again. Try to imagine an artist working now in the medium of film who is just as revered for their scriptwriting as their direction and even their idiosyncratic comedic acting delivery. Anyone? Combine that with a relentless, indefatigable enthusiasm for making movies and you have a man whose cinema career has stretched for almost 50 years and encompassed close to a movie a year. Sure there have been films that verged on the ordinary but Woody Allen's career has seen some of the finest examples of the filmmaking art.
Director Robert Weide (Oscar nominated for his film on the life of Lenny Bruce) followed Woody around for a year and a half, interviewing this notoriously shy man who is at his most comfortable when sitting behind a typewriter and positively loathes the red carpet experience. It is at times a revealing film. The Woody Allen of this documentary comes across as a restless spirit who creates because he has to and is rarely satisfied looking upon his creations.
The documentary is split into two parts. The first examines his early life and his entry into cinema right up until the huge successes of Annie Hall and Manhattan. The second part continues the story, taking us right up to Midnight in Paris. Although the first half is some 30 min longer than the second that should not be seen as a reflection on the quality of the films considered. However, the drama involving Allen and his partner Mia Farrow over her adopted daughter Soon Yi Previn perhaps limited the amount of content and insight that could have been gained from interviews with Farrow. In the earlier part Allen's second wife, Louise Lasser, and his the first muse Diane Keaton helped fill in the empty gaps in the Allen biography.
Fans of Allen's films would probably know many of the stories surrounding the making of those films. What is most interesting then about this documentary is the time that is spent on his very early years as a schoolboy earning $25 a week writing jokes for the newspaper. Even then his output was prodigious - 50 jokes per night! From there the film follows his rise as a nightclub comedian to the point of his first script writing effort, What's New Pussycat? There is a wealth of early footage of Allen doing stand-up although the film doesn't detail much of his humorous short stories. Anyone with a love of humour should pick up an anthology of his stories.
For the Woody Allen fan it is comforting that the two greatest individual focuses of the film are his writing and his direction. Both are surprising. Even for a 76 year old man the thought of great works of art still being typed on an ancient typewriter is astounding. Perhaps even more astounding to see the reams and reams of paper with scribbled thoughts, most of which lie undeveloped.
The Woody Allen directorial method is also addressed, often by puzzled film stars. His casting method is unique, sometimes only meeting with cast members at auditions which are over in seconds leading to the occasional, perhaps more than occasional, decision to change actors after a few days on set. Some, like Sean Penn, are bemused at the thought that at the end of shooting they shook hands and went their separate ways without the director ever mentioning whether he liked his performance! Others, such as Naomi Watts, are enduringly appreciative of a director who tells them that they are free to improvise with his script and work to develop their own performances. Woody himself is more circumspect. He casts actors who know what they are doing and just lets them go about the business.
This is not a documentary for those desperate to consume the more salacious aspects of his life. It is about his films and his creative process and comes well recommended.
Woody Allen: a Documentary combines footage from a variety of sources. The documentary itself is in a standard widescreen 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Fans of Allen will be pleased to know that when interspersing excerpts from his many films the director has specifically maintained the original aspect ratios. The quality of the footage on offer, of course, varies greatly. Some of the early footage of Allen performing on TV and doing stand-up comedy is understandably poor. Additionally, some of the film extracts such as those from Sleeper and Bananas are definitely looking their age. So too are the interviews conducted years ago (prior to their deaths) with Allen's mother and producer Robert Greenhut.
Perhaps that leads to another gripe. Although it is now possible to buy Annie Hall on Blu-ray as well as recent films like Midnight in Paris, Scoop and Match Point there is an entire catalogue of films that are not yet available in high definition in this Region, if at all. Perhaps no one would mourn the absence of Cassandra's Dream or Celebrity or even Stardust Memories. However, some of his greatest films like Broadway Danny Rose and the Purple Rose of Cairo as well as more recent films like Crimes and Misdemeanours and Husbands and Wives deserve high-definition releases.
So back to this documentary. The high-definition interview footage is generally good throughout although the quality wavers sometimes when there is too much movement. The flesh tones are accurate and the level of detail is excellent.
There are no subtitles.
Woody Allen: A Documentary comes with a DTS-HD Master Audio English language track.
It is always of benefit to have a lossless soundtrack however, apart from giving a little zing to the jazz music throughout, the track really isn't needed. The film relies heavily on interview footage which is perfectly rendered from the centre channels.
There are no technical problems with the sound transfer.
|Surround Channel Use|
The only extras are a series of outtakes and a short interview.
Allen takes us through his beloved Brooklyn and tells stories about his early years. A Jewish neighbour is astounded when he is told that Allen once lived there: "Now the house is worth a little less..." he deadpans.
Woody tells of the role of The New Yorker in developing his career.
Mariel Hemingway tells a funny story of how she took the Manhattan bound Woody to Idaho.
The director asks a series of questions that he is confident Woody has never been asked before! Most are funny dilemmas which Woody answers in the spirit of things.
Woody Allen's mum.
An interview with Robert Weide. He explains his reasons for making the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
This is the same as the Region A release.
Anyone with an interest in the films of Woody Allen will want to pick up this documentary.
Woody Allen in his late 70s is still full of life and self-deprecating humour. He does look old though.
The Blu-ray is of a fine quality considering that it is largely consisting of talking head interview footage. The extras are a useful addition to the package.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|