REEL LIFE: Wild Man Blues
by Sharon Knolle
Even if you've boycotted Woody Allen aprés scandal, you'll still enjoy this behind the scenes look at the most neurotic man in America. Award-winning documentarian Barbara Kopple followed Woody and his New Orleans jazz band when they toured Europe, and the result is a funny and engaging film that should give Allen's shrink material for years to come.
While you get plenty of glimpses of the Woodman's rampant paranoia and neuroses, you also see a new side of Woody. With a clarinet to his lips, he's positively rapturous. As Soon-Yi rather unkindly phrases it, "I've never seen you move your body so much." Woody's response: "Should I tap my feet or nod my head and keep time while I'm discussing philosophy?"
In this and other exchanges, the audience's sympathy is entirely with Woody. In one scene, Soon-Yi makes Woody eat the omelet she ordered because she didn't like it. Neither does he, but she gets her way. Later, his mother tells him he should have married a "nice Jewish girl" (with Soon-Yi in the room!), and his father tells him, "You're not such a bigshot."
Although we get more revelations such as Soon-Yi's favorite Allen movie (Manhattan), it's not all family quarreling. A significant portion of the film is concert footage. The band may share the limelight on stage, but offstage, it's Woody drawing the crowds and photographers. Much like the curious European fans interviewed before concerts, the audience may be going just for the novelty of seeing Allen moonlight as a musician. The band, and the film, are well worth seeing.