Saturday, April 26, 2014

ZELIG (1983)

Woody Allen had one hell of a directorial run from 1977 to 1982 with ANNIE HALL, INTERIORS, MANHATTAN, STARDUST MEMORIES and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY.  He only won a single Best Picture Award (in 1977 for ANNIE HALL), but in my opinion he should have won more.  INTERIORS was especially deserving in 1978, it wasn't even nominated and lost to THE DEER HUNTER.  MANHATTAN could have also won in 1979 although I think ALIEN was more deserving, neither were nominated and the award ended up going home with KRAMER VS. KRAMER.  Allen's home run streak came to an end though in 1983 with ZELIG.

Set in the 1920's (and told with fake newsreel stories, archival footage, etc.) the story is about a guy, Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen), who takes on the physical and personality traits of those around him.  Put him with a Native Indian and he turns into a Native Indian, put him with some Frenchmen and he grows a mustache and starts speaking French and so on.  This "human chameleon" soon becomes the most famous man in the world.  He's placed in a psychiatric hospital under the care of Dr. Mia Farrow.  She studies Zelig and of course falls in love with him.

For about 15 minutes or so ZELIG is mildly amusing, but after awhile the single joke just wears thin.  Alright, we get it, he can change the way he looks.  Hardy-har-har.  As a short film ZELIG would have been fine, but as a full-length film it seemed like they were just padding the runtime for a theatrical release.  At only 79 minutes it's definitely one of Allen's shortest films if not the shortest.  Worth watching, for Allen fans, but if you skip it you're not gonna miss much.  I did chuckle at the Dreyfus Affair joke.  You don't see a lot of humor about that.