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Woody Allen: A Documentary @ ACMI

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Woody Allen. Some people love him, others not so much. But whatever your preference may be, his legacy is too long to ignore.

Featured at the Cannes Film Festival, Woody Allen: A Documentary was part of the 25th anniversary season of American Masters on PBS. The film premieres at ACMI on June 1.

Directed by Robert B. Weide and running for 120 minutes, the documentary features interviews by Woody Allen's family and a long list of actors including Penelope Cruz, Diane Keaton, Sean Penn who've worked with the comic genius in his long career that spans over four decades.

The actors speak fondly of their experience working with Woody, and the free reign he gives them in exploring their own creativity. This comes as no surprise as many of the actors that starred in his films went on to win numerous awards.

Born Allan Konigsberg, Woody changed his name to avoid being recognised by his classmates when he started writing gags for newspaper columnists.

By the age of 17, Woody was already earning more than both his parents combined. Ironically, his parents had wanted him to be a pharmacist.

In this rare glimpse into the makings behind the man, you get a peak into the neighbourhood where he grew up and what inspired him to start his career . The documentary details his journey from an amateur to a multi-talented stand-up comedian, musician, actor and film director.

Featuring interviews with Woody himself, you can't help but feel a little mind boggled at how serious his demeanour is when he's not being funny. He speaks of Ingmar Bergman and Federico Fellini, who inspired his work, and also his long-standing love affair with Jazz.

Photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

Watching Woody without the act, you get the sense that a part of him feels like he doesn't deserve his success. Especially when it comes to accolades and awards like the Oscars. He's unafraid to admit that unlike sports where there is a clear winner, it's hard to properly quantify the art of film making.

Does that show a trace of humility or is Woody being his usual neurotic self? You decide.

Showing snippets from movies like Annie Hall, Manhattan and Midnight in Paris, Woody speaks of his fear of death, a recurring theme in his films.

You get to see the (now) primitive German typewriter that he types his scripts on, and even the handwritten notes where his ideas begin well before they're completed.

The documentary mentions movies like Stardust Memories which tanked at the box office, and the reasons for their failure; mostly attributing it to a disillusionment with his fan base, and an inability to understand his own stardom in a world where there is so much suffering.

The film also covers some of the unsavoury aspects of his personal life; like his affair with Mia Farrow's adopted daughter and the controversy it caused. Be prepared to raise an eyebrow.

The two hours went by quickly. Woody's achievements as a filmmaker and his flaws as a person are brought to light in this riveting documentary. And if nothing else, his honesty is admirable in an industry where all that glitters is often mistaken for gold.

A must-see for Woody Allen fans, the documentary offers a fresh perspective to film-lovers, who will at least be a little bit curious at Woody's unique style and approach to movies.

The next time you find yourself in Federation Square, be sure to check out ACMI. If not for the Woody Allen documentary, then at least to celebrate and enjoy the richness of the moving image which has fired our imagination since the days when it was all black and white.

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When: Afternoon and Evening
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Where: ACMI
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