Wild Man Blues

Guy MacPherson

Much has been written about Woody Allen. Because Allen is such a private citizen, most of it is either gossip or speculation. In Wild Man Blues, Oscar-winning documentary director Barbara Kopple takes us into the private life of Woody Allen, the comedian, auteur, musician, brother, son and soon-to-be-husband (he married Soon-Yi Previn shortly after this documentary was made).

Kopple follows Allen and his band on a European tour and we are privy to a look at Allen we haven't seen before. I, for one, am pleased to learn that he is just as neurotic and funny in real life as in his films.

Particularly hilarious and revealing is Allen visiting his parents. They cut no slack for their celebrated son. "You did a lot of good things," his 96-year-old father tells him. "But you never pursued them." And, "You had an idea that you could write a script, you're a big shot. That's a lot of hokum." Woody responds with, "This is a lunch from hell."

The main thrust of the film, though, is the music. And there's plenty of it. About 23 minutes of it, as a matter of fact. Allen and his traditional New Orleans Dixieland band possess the necessary ingredients for this rudimentary and joyous art form. Is Woody Allen a good clarinetist? He's certainly competent, but even he knows his limitations. "I'm not a sufficient enough musician to hold their interest," he frets. He proves wrong, of course. Allen and company present the music with very little fanfare or introduction and the audiences eat it up.

Woody Allen will always be vilified in some corners for his relationship with his ex-girlfriend's adopted daughter, but Previn seems the perfect fit for him, both mothering and bemused with his many and varied obsessions.

If you're a fan of Woody Allen, or jazz music, this film a must-see.

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