Zelig (1983)

“Zelig” (1983)

IMDb

Citizen Puzzle

This is a great experience, oscillating between pure woody allen territory and serious film ideas that woody places before absolutely every one of his films, even the failed ones.

Here he places himself apparently in the middle of the narrative exploration that Welles started with Kane. But only apparently. In Kane, we had several views of the same story, in that case the story was the life of a man. Each view was from the direct perspective of a specific narrator (newsreel, ex-wife, best friend…). It broke a lot of rules and, together with Toland/Welles’ impressive visual work, it changed the course of cinema, we all know.

This Zelig also uses visual elements from apparently different sources to put up a story. It also teams up one of the best cinematographers ever, whose pairing with Allen produced a number of unsurpassed quality films (including the incredibly moving Manhattan, disparaged by Woody himself!). The story here is also the life of a man. And that life is also heavily self-biographical to its author/actor.

But something is fundamentally different. Each different medium, each different visual language is here to show us some insight on one story. Every bit completes the others, it never competes with them. So the narrative strategy is that we the narrator (one single narrator) is (apparently) collaborating with the audience to show them the story he proposed to tell. That’s why the fake documentary form fits perfectly. We are given every sort of ordinary TV documentary tricks, from testimonies of witnesses now old to bits of newsreels “from the 20′”. Visually it’s well stitched together, and i admit it was probably very hard to keep the pace of such a film, because this form is fitted for real stories, where the interest of wanting to know the thing makes you want to keep on watching. But this is well put together.

Whenever we deviate from the rules Woody established for this film, we are on his grounds of comedy. Of all the bits, the white room sessions with Mia Farrow are the funniest, also because we step out of fiction and see Woody’s personal passion in those days.

My opinion: 4/5

This comment on IMDb

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