Monday, March 28, 2011


Several of Woody Allen's films will be expiring from Netflix' Instant service shortly, so I made sure to watch a few of them this weekend. They coincidentally all co-starred Mia Farrow, and the first one is Zelig, a mockumentary about a man with a mental disorder that causes him to physically transform to resemble those around him. Allen plays the titular character, and is surprisingly dedicated to the documentary conceit, as a very large portion of the film is narration over still photographs and period footage, with the story taking place mostly in the 20s and 30s. Any scene using live action, whether intended as archive footage or as a modern interview, is usually pretty funny, though the focus seems to have been on the fake documentary stuff rather than humor.

I would say that the joke of the character isn't enough to sustain a whole movie, even one that doesn't quite last eighty minutes, though the fact is that the joke isn't the whole thing. It provides some laughs as Allen transforms into other races or gains copious amounts of weight to fit in with his current crowd, but the condition actually sort of explores the idea of identity and wanting to be liked in a way I wasn't expecting. It's a surprisingly effective story beyond the comedy. The relationship between Zelig and his doctor played by Farrow is also one of the nicest I've seen in an Allen film, mostly because it doesn't involve a lot of infidelity or anything like that. The one thing I found odd was that the entire style of the film and narration seemed to be like an old newsreel or something, but the footage from the (then) modern day interviews clashes with that. Still, with so many mockumentaries these days that barely even bother to play with or acknowledge the concept, it was fun seeing a film that threw itself into it entirely.

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