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Zelig [VHS]


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Product Details

  • Actors: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Patrick Horgan, John Buckwalter, Marvin Chatinover
  • Directors: Woody Allen
  • Writers: Woody Allen
  • Producers: Charles H. Joffe, Jack Rollins, Michael Peyser, Robert Greenhut
  • Format: Black & White, Color, HiFi Sound, NTSC
  • Language: English, German
  • Rated: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  • Number of tapes: 1
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • VHS Release Date: March 1, 1993
  • Run Time: 79 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: 6300271870
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #256,939 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com

The thinking person's Forrest Gump, Woody Allen's 1983 Zelig is a funny, atmospheric mock-documentary about the collision of one man's manifest neuroses colliding with key moments in 20th-century history. Allen plays the title character, a self-effacing, timorous fellow with such a porous personality that he physically becomes a reflection of whoever he is with. Complex and painstaking, the film's pre-Gump special effects manage to place Allen, buried under a series of makeup and prosthetic guises, in a number of scenes along with Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally, a pope at the Vatican, and famous guests at a garden party hosted by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Similar in tone and satire to some of Allen's short, comic pieces published in The New Yorker magazine, Zelig is a one-note movie that takes its delicious time establishing the fullness of its central joke. It's well worth the wait. --Tom Keogh

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful By James M. Fitzwilliam VINE VOICE on January 29, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This film is perhaps the ultimate in parody-documentary. Some people might find the pace a bit slow, and the humor a bit dry, precisely because it is presented exactly as it would be if it were an actual serious documentary about a real historical personage. It requires a bit more thought and attention on the part of the vewer than does a "conventional" comedy for that reason. At one point the narrator, in his best, serious, Public Television Documentary National Geographic Special voice, describes Zelig's parents and their violent domestic squabbles: "...Even though they lived over a bowling alley, it was the bowling alley that complained about the noise." This sort of thing could go right past you if you weren't really listening.

The reason this film works is that all of the supporting details are meticulous and perfect. All of the 1920's songs about Zelig (such as "The Chameleon Dance" and "You May Be Six People, But I Love You") are written and performed so perfectly in period style that I, watching it the first few times, could hardly believe that they were not actual, real (but obscure) 1920's songs that they found somewhere which happened to fit the movie theme, rather than being modern parodies of vintage recordings. (Speaking as a musician, I can vouch for the fact that that bright, Irish popular tenor sound which was all the rage back then is a rarity these days!)

And all of the film clips are just as carefully executed. I seem to remember, back when this film was just out, an article describing how Allen's production staff took just-shot black and white footage into the parking lot and threw it on the ground and walked all over it, and carefully crinkled the film, so that it would look worn and decades-old.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Randy Keehn VINE VOICE on December 29, 2005
Format: DVD
I had seen bits and pieces of Woody Allen's "Zelig" before but I had never seen the whole movie until last night. To be honest, my initial reaction was to wonder if I would be able to maintain interest throughout the whole movie. As it turned out, that was no problem.

"Zelig" tells the story of an individual who developed an unexplainable ability to appear like the people of his surroundings. It is presented in a documentary format and that format is amazingly well done. I'm of the opinion that there was plenty of actual newsreel footage from the 1920's and '30's and there was also plenty of new film made to appear that it was from that era. I was never that certain as to which was which because the cinematography was that well done. The retrospective interviews with present day theorists and aged contemporaries butressed the documentary nature of the film (as did the continuous narration).

As the title character (played by Woody Allen) assumes more and more identities, we come to understand that his efforts to be like others leaves him with no identity of his own. I understood Allen's message to be an expression of his frustration with the negative public reaction to his post-"Annie Hall" movies. He wasn't making the kinds of pictures everyone else was and his uniqueness was being dismissed. I saw him making a statement that banality lacks meaning by satirizing someone who went out of his way to avoid being himself. Maybe Allen had a higher purpose in making "Zelig" but I was comfortable with the message I got out of it.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wellen on November 18, 2001
Format: DVD
Zelig, the Woody Allen film that time almost forgot, is one of his 10 best. The story is well explained by other reviewers. Nevertheless, the DVD (without any extras except a fascinating trailer) is superior. The grainy film stock and sound are excellent. The movie is a timely today as it was in 1983. A fascinating film from a variety of perspectives. It was a painstaking labor of love that really addresses the need for love, assimilation, and life in the 1920s or 30s. A superior film, well worth the 15 bucks.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rudy Avila on July 5, 2004
Format: DVD
1983's "Zelig" was written and directed by Woody Allen. This is of course years after 1977's Annie Hall and so Woody Allen's comic talent was already established. Woody Allen's witty, intellectual humor is most prominent in this film which he directs as if it were a documentary. It's entirely in black and white, except for the contemporary scenes of interviewed characters, there is footage from the 20's, 30's and 40's, including footage of Adolph Hitler making a speech at a Nazi rally. Woody Allen plays Leonard Zelig, a shy, unassuming little man with an identity disorder. He cannot truly be himself because he becomes transformed into his surroundings. When he is around Jewish rabbis, he becomes Jewish, when he is around African-Americans, he becomes black, when he is around overweight people, he becomes fat, etc. This miracle of biology earned him the title of the Chameleon or "The Changing Man". Mia Farrow, who coincidentally was romantically linked with Woody Allen at this time in the 80's, plays the role of Zelig's love interest Dr. Eudora Fletcher. Eudora Fletcher takes a genuine interest in Zelig and examines him psychologically through hypnosis. The scenes of their sessions are extremely funny but then again so is much of this movie. Woody Allen is the first Forrest Gump, being as funny and awkward, at least 10 years before Tom Hanks did it in the 90's. Zelig is so loved that he is hob-nobbing with all the greats of the time- Charlie Chaplin, William Randalph Hearst, Fanny Brice, F. Scott Fitzegerald and Zelda, etc. The music for this movie is appropriately cartoonish and Charleston/Jazz Age style. There is one dance segment called The Chameleon and another with the voice of Betty Boop singing "Chameleon Days". Witty dialogue, lots of humor and visual jokes, it's a movie that is sure to delight you.
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