80s US Bracket: Zelig (1983)

The second film in my third match-up in the first round of the 80s US Bracket is different, that much is sure!

Written By: Woody Allen
Directed By: Woody Allen

In Zelig, Woody Allen is clearly attempting a satire on the media, both past and present, and the bias they can place on any given situation. I am including the documentary filmmaker as a part of the media by the way, because you know that I view all documentaries as con-jobs for the most part, sue me if you don’t like it. Sprinkled throughout Allen’s satirical take on the media are the usual neurotic bits of humor and the standard theme of love that always populate a Woody Allen film. But when all is stripped away from Zelig I was left with one fact that stopped me from really liking it, it just didn’t engage me as much as I would have liked.

Zelig is a well made faux documentary, but I don’t consider it an interesting film. I know what Allen was going for and I actually think he succeeds, but I was pretty darn bored when he was succeeding the most. Maybe it’s just where my taste in comedy always goes back to, but I was more engaged when Woody Allen was being the typically neurotic Woody Allen. I was drawn to what was being shown on screen when it was absurd and thus absurdly funny. Those moments were enough for me to like Zelig, but they were not enough for me to really like Zelig, if you get the distinction I am making there.

One area where I will give Mr. Allen some major props is in the way he was able to make the 1920’s-1930’s footage look like footage from that era. No matter what you may think of Allen as a person or even if you don’t like his films I don’t think a person can deny his innate ability to bring a place or a period in time to life. Every time the film switches to grainy and scratched “footage” from the so called jazz era I believed that I was really seeing Leonard Zelig in that time and place. The cinematography deserves a lot of credit for this, but so does Allen, who has once again evoked a particular setting and a particular time with minimal effort.

I wish that Zelig gave me more to talk about, but truth be told it doesn’t. It is easily the most straight forward film I have ever seen from Allen. Either the idea of a faux documentary that pokes fun at media bias will engage you or it won’t. I respect the craftsmanship on display in Zelig, and I laughed more than a few times. But, I was never as engaged in Zelig as I should have been and that is why Zelig ends up a relatively average Woody Allen film in my estimation. If you are a fellow Allen completest like I am then I do suggest at the very least giving Zelig a twirl, but if you aren’t then Zelig is a film you could skip and not feel bad about doing so in the slightest.





3 responses to “80s US Bracket: Zelig (1983)

  1. Jordan Richardson

    A vastly underrated picture from Allen.

    This tale of identity politics is one of his sharpest and most meaningful works because it reaches outside of his usually personal subjects and into something bigger. It’s ambitious and, surprisingly, not many people list it among their favourites of Woody’s work, but I think it’s just terrific.

    Nice review.

  2. Pingback: Review: Take The Money And Run (1969) | Bill's Movie Emporium

  3. Thanks, obviously you liked it a lot more than I did, but I still liked it nonetheless.

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