Woody Allen: A Documentary: Parts 1 & 2
In the last two weeks, on two consecutive Sunday evenings, I watched a total of 2 hours of this 3 hour doco entitled Woody Allen: A Documentary: Parts 1& 2(1) It is Robert B Weide's fascinating study of the multi-Oscar winning New York film-maker. Weide(1959- )is an American screenwriter, producer, and director, perhaps best known for his Emmy-winning work on documentaries including profiles of American comedian, actor, juggler and writer W.C. Fields as well as Lenny Bruce. Bruce(1925-1966) was an American stand-up comedian, social critic and satirist. He was renowned for his open, free-style and critical form of comedy which integrated politics, religion and sex. He was one of my favourite comedians in the 1960s, in my late adolescence and early adulthood.
This doco on Allen by Weide was a pleasure to watch. Weide was born in 1959 when I was on the mound for the Burlington All-Stars. His life began some 4 months before I began my lifetime trajectory with a new world Faith that has its origins in Iran, and is now the second most widespread religion on the planet according to the Encyclopedia Britannica. I had to go to bed after the first hour of viewing this doco because my medications kicked-in, my anti-depressant and anti-psychotic meds, making sleep my only serious option by 1 a.m.
The first part of this doco takes viewers from Allen’s family background and childhood up to 1980. Weide talked to Alan Yentob about making this definitive Woody Allen documentary which was first broadcast on BBC One on Tuesday 23 and Wednesday 24 July 2012, and internet readers can access that live interview, if they are interested. Yentob(1947-) is a British television executive and presenter. He has spent his entire career at the BBC. Weide talks with Yentob about gaining Allen's trust and getting him to talk candidly & revealingly about his life and work. I had my 68th birthday when BBC One put that documentary to air.
After trying for three decades---as far back as the mid-1980s---Weide was given the unprecedented access he wanted to make Woody Allen: A Documentary. We see Woody Allen in Part 1 in his childhood neighbourhood, working with Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, among others, on set, and working at home with his 1950s Olympia Portable SM3 typewriter which he still uses for all of his writing. Weide also relates the story of Allen's idiosyncratic approach to picking his next script: trawling through scraps of paper kept in a bedside drawer, and his unusual script-editing methods. As a writer and author, poet and publisher, editor and researcher, I was particularly fascinated by this part of the doco.
Allen worked as a comedy writer in his late teens and early 20s, the 1950s, writing jokes and scripts for television and publishing several books of short humor pieces. In the early 1960s, Allen began performing as a stand-up comic, emphasizing monologues rather than traditional jokes. I knew nothing of Woody Allen in the 1950s, and early ‘60s, involved as I was in: (i) my childhood and adolescence from 1950 to 1964, (ii) my sport and school, family and life in a small town, and (iii) my first years, 1953 to 1964, associated with a new religion, a religion which claimed to be the newest of the Abrahamic faiths: the Baha’i Faith.
Allen's films span six decades, starting with 1965's What's New Pussycat? In the winter and spring of 1965 I was 21; I had my first of life's orgasms thanks to a 27 year-old divorced woman from the rich-side-of town in the lunch-pail city of Hamilton Ontario from February to April 1965; I attended my father’s funeral in May, worked as an abstractor for the Canadian Peace Research Institute in July and August, and was also an electrician’s assistant for the Steel Company of Canada that summer.
I lived above a local restaurant after my father died, eating chilli-con-carne 4 times a week at 60 cents per serve, and finished my second year at university in an honours history and philosophy program. In September 1965 I began an honours sociology course. In October ’65 I also made the decision to teach primary school among the Inuit on Baffin Island after graduation, and after completing my teacher training at what is now the University of Windsor. I still knew nothing of Woody Allen.
Allen is still going strong in 2013 at the age of 78. I don’t need to give you chapter and verse of Allen’s extensive achievements, or of any more of his many idiosyncrasies as a person and as a director over more than 60 years.
Wikipedia has an excellent summary, if you are interested. But his eccentricities are especially covered in this doco. Meanwhile, as Allen nears the age of 80 in the year 2015, I near the age of 70 in 2013: (a) retired after a 50 year student-teaching life, 1949 to 1999; (b) reinvented from the roles of teacher and tutor, lecturer and adult educator, to the roles of writer and author, poet and publisher, online blogger and journalist, reader and scholar, editor and researcher, and (c) nursing several bodily ailments. I hope, though, thanks to modern medicine, to last well into my old-age, the years after 80 according to one model of human development used by psychologists.-Ron Price with thanks to (1) ABC1 TV, 1-2 and 8-9 September, 11:50 p.m. to 1:15 a.m.
A lover of music and writing with
much pure joy in his life, & much
self-deprecation, much humour, &
much shyness and much discomfort,
much psychoanalysis(37 years), one
more marriage, and several more of
many things than me: relationships,
children, wealth, decades of immense
creativity, fame and literary success.1
You were and are a wonder to behold,
Woody, and I thank you for your talents
and faculties, literary skills, & what you
have given to our planetary civilization
but, more importantly & in my personal
perspective, your modus operandi in the
way you go about directing has a useful
lesson or two on how to go about living.
So does your capacity to box-off aspects
of your life into separate categories; then
you can go on creating without all that
emotional load interfering with all your
ideas which seem to bubble-up in some
intellectual froth that is part of a talent
which is at the centre of all your modus
vivendi, and your life’s raison d’etre!!!.2
1 I leave it to readers with the interest to find out more about the several aspects of Woody Allen’s life to which I refer in the above prose-poem. His achievements are legion.
2 The several Latin expressions I have used above, and translated as ‘way of operating’, ‘way of living’ and ‘reason for living’, are often useful in my literary work. Hence, I use these Latin phrases often.
2 and 9 September 2013