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1983 motion picture starring Woody Allen and Mia Farrow

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Woody Allen's "mockumentary" is simply brilliant!

  • Jul 9, 2011
Rating:
+5
I have never seen quite anything like it. When Woody Allen's 1983 film "Zelig" was released it was dubbed a "mockumentary". "Zelig" stars Woody Allen as a curious little man called Leonard Zelig who seems to turn up with surprising or unaccountable frequency in a variety of settings. Zelig possesses the uncanny ability to look and act like whoever happens to be around him. One minute he is seen looking like a white major league baseball player and the next time you spot him he might resemble a black jazz musicion. Zelig was a media sensation during The Roaring '20s and was dubbed "the human chameleon". When Leonard Zelig first appears on the scene a young psychologist named Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow) takes an interest in his case and vows to help him in any way she can. She quickly determines her patient is only yearning for the approval of others which is why he physically changes to fit in with those around him. It is a bizarre condition the likes of which has been seen before but Dr. Fletcher honestly believes that she can help cure him of this malady. The trials and tribulations of Leonard Zelig and Dr. Eudora Fletcher are chronicled in the film. What makes this film so unique is that it was shot in the style of those primitive 1920's black and white newsreels that were so popular back in the day. Allen, who also wrote and directed this film, cleverly weaves stock footage from the period into the story. Patrick Horgan who narrates the "mockumentary" is just perfect and greatly adds to the ambiance of this film. Meanwhile, Allen adds contemporary commentary (filmed in color circa 1983 when the film was made) on all of these events from a number of the leading intellectuals of the day including such notables as Susan Sonntag, Irving Howe and Saul Bellow. A vintage Woody Allen technique!

With all of the hoopla surrounding Leonard Zelig there is really only one person who truly cares about him. Zelig was under observation by Dr. Fletcher when his half-sister Ruth and her shady husband Martin Geist show up to claim custody of Zelig. Ruth and Martin want control of Zelig for one reason only....to exploit him for financial gain. They turn Leonard into a carnival attraction, a novelty, a freak if you will. They not only charge admission to see him but offer all kinds of merchandise to boot. There are Zelig dolls, clocks, toys and books. He truly is a worldwide phenomenon. Zelig's popularity even spawns a dance craze known as "The Chameleon". With no around to love him Leonard's condition continues to deteriorate. Eventually, he vanishes from the scene and Dr. Fletcher is frantic to find him. Some time later she spots him in a newsreel standing right behind of all people Adolf Hitler looking like an SS officer. She rushes to Germany and manages to bring him home for treatment. Eventually the two of them fall in love and are married. Still, there are more peaks and valleys to come.

So just how did Woody Allen go about making such an innovative film? "I wrote the whole script first," explains the filmmaker, "then I looked at millions of feet of documentary and I changed my script with the new discoveries. And this went on for a couple of years". Allen also went out of his way to find old cameras, lenses and sound equipment from the 1920's to help give his film the authentic look and feel he was after. The film also features several original new tunes recorded in the 1920's style including "Chameleon Days", "You May Be Six People But I Love You", "Leonard The Lizard" and "Reptile Eyes". Very clever indeed!

I viewed "Zelig" for the first time in a good many years the other day and found it to be every bit as engaging, charming and witty as I remembered it to be. This is one of the most unique films you will ever see and ranks at or near the top of my favorite Woody Allen movies. If you have never seen "Zelig" I urge you to give it a look-see. You are in for a real treat.  Very highly recommended!
Simply brilliant! Simply brilliant! Simply brilliant! Simply brilliant!

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July 09, 2011
The movie Zelig was a grand farce
 
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About the reviewer
Paul Tognetti ()
Ranked #2
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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Wiki

Zelig is a 1983 American mockumentary written and directed by Woody Allen.

Set in the 1920s and 1930s, the film focuses on Leonard Zelig, a nondescript man who has the ability to transform his appearance to that of the people who surround him. He is observed at a party by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who notices that while mingling with the guests, Zelig sings the praises of the affluent classes in a refined, snobbish accent, but while in the kitchen with the servants, he seethes with rage at the fat cats in a thick proletarian voice. He soon gains international fame as a "human chameleon".

Dr. Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow) is a psychiatrist who wants to help Zelig with this strange disorder when he is admitted to her hospital. Through the use of hypnotism, she discovers Zelig yearns for approval so strongly he physically changes to fit in with those around him. Dr. Fletcher's determination allows her to cure Zelig, but not without complications; on the road to recovery, he temporarily develops a personality which is intolerant of other people's opinions.

Dr. Fletcher realizes she is falling in love with Zelig. Due to the media coverage of the case, both patient and doctor become part of the popular culture of their time. However, fame is the main cause of their division; the same society that made Zelig a hero destroys him.

Zelig's illness returns, and he tries to fit in once more. Numerous women claim he married them, and he disappears. Dr. Fletcher finds ...

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Details

Director: Woody Allen
Release Date: July 15, 1983
Runtime: 79 minutes
Studio: Orion Pictures
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