Love him or hate him (and we mostly love him around here), one can’t deny the lasting influence and importance of Woody Allen — or his astonishing productivity, knocking out a film a year as writer/director (and sometimes star) for the past, oh, forty years. The sheer volume of his output makes it less than surprising that American Masters’ new profile of the venerable filmmaker, Woody Allen: A Documentary, is a bit of an epic affair: it totals three-and-a-half hours and is running in two parts on PBS. Check out the preview and some surprising clips after the jump.
There are several reasons we’re excited about Woody Allen: A Documentary: the extensive input from the subject, the unprecedented access he gave its crew, the participation of countless collaborators (including Diane Keaton, Sean Penn, Owen Wilson, Tony Roberts, Larry David, Scarlett Johansson, and John Cusack — though, unsurprisingly, not Mia Farrow) and admirers (such as Martin Scorsese and Chris Rock). But most of all, this one has been on our radar because it is the work of Robert B. Weide — a name you may recognize from the closing credits of Curb Your Enthusiasm (he’s an executive producer and has directed several episodes), but who also helmed the brilliant, Oscar-nominated doc Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth, and contributed to the hard-to-find-but-worth-seeking-out W.C. Fields: Straight Up! and The Marx Brothers in A Nutshell. In other words, this is a guy who knows how to make films about comic icons.
The trailer for the film:
Allen’s 1979 film Manhattan is one of his most acclaimed; two Oscar nominations, a spot on the AFI list of the best comedies ever made, inclusion on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry. But come to find out, Allen didn’t share the general enthusiasm for the film:
The story of his summers spent writing sketches at a resort community in the Poconos goes a long way towards explaining his work ethic — i.e., “You couldn’t sit in your room waiting for your muse to come and tickle you”:
The question of mortality is one that Allen has wrestled with throughout his career, to great comic and dramatic effect. Based on this clip, it’s a struggle that goes back further than you might think:
And finally, at risk of turning this entire week into a Diane Keaton love-fest, a little bit on how the pair met:
Woody Allen: A Documentary airs on PBS this Sunday and Monday (check local listings, etc).