Jewish Journal

Living in Allen-town

by Mike Levy

Posted on May. 2, 2002 at 8:00 pm

Woody Allen fans, cancel your plans for Saturday nights in May. In addition to airing 18 of his films uninterrupted over four nights, Turner Classic Movies features "Woody Allen: A Life in Film," Richard Schickel's spare, straightforward documentary. For Allen's fans, the 90-minutes of Woody's quips and movie clips offer some insight into the every-year process of moviemaking, and thoughtfully examines the recurring themes and obsessions of a thoughtful filmmaker.

Schickel, a film critic for Time Magazine since 1972 who has previously made documentaries on film legends such as Alfred Hitchcock, James Cagney and Elia Kazan, departed from his usual format for the Allen film. Rather than have a narrator to chart the course of Allen's life in film, writer-producer-director Schickel allows writer-producer-director Allen to do all the speaking for himself.

Culled from 4 1/2 hours of interviews, "A Life in Film," is simply Woody Allen on Woody Allen, discussing his work (not his personal life), interspersed with scenes from his films illustrating his ruminations. Neither chronological nor a collection of his most famous scenes, Schickel gets Allen's thoughts both on individual films and broader topics, like his transition from "the early, funny ones" to his more serious work, and lately back again to comedies.

If you're planning to watch 18 of his films, you should take this self-deprecating assessment to heart -- "I have no acting range," he admits in one fun segment. "I play a guy who lives in New York. The two things I can play are an intellectual because of the way I look, and a lowlife, because of the way I am."


"Woody Allen: A Life in Film" premieres on Turner Classic Movies May 4 at 5 p.m. For more information, visit www.turnerclassicmovies.com.

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