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4.2 out of 5 stars
Zelig [DVD]
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 April 2015
At just an hour and twenty minutes this is a very short film indeed. Woody has such a brilliant and wacky mind that he’s always capable of coming up with something quite different, though the inevitable ‘relationship’ again creeps in here with one of his regulars. You all know the storyline and how it’s put together and presented, so I’ll skip that.
I found this film 'interesting' rather than engrossing or overly humorous. It comes across as very dated now, yes, I know we’re taken back to the jazz age and that B & W grainy film, but for me it was all rather tame and I can’t recall one laugh out loud moment - for me. I do appreciate that 30 years ago this may have been seen as cutting edge, quite a daring and clever piece. Sorry, but it’s a decent enough three stars, as it did little for me overall, other than add another ‘WA’ flick to those that I’ve watched - and have to say, thoroughly enjoyed in the main.
I know a lot of 'Woodyites' really rated this film (it scored fairly well on RT, IMDb and grossed well), but my preference is for the likes of ‘ Broadway Danny Rose, which followed this film, ’ and the wonderful 'Midnight in Paris,' to mention but a few.

It’s just a personal choice of course, and few of us would have the same top ten ‘Woody’ films now would we?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 November 2012
One of my favourite Woody Allen Films. Some brilliant special effects, and a magnificently re-created "period" score by Dick Hyman.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2011
This is a great little black & white film from Woody Allen. Like 'Take the money and run', his first feature film from the late 60s, its a fake documentary. Zelig (played by Woody) is the name given to a man with chameleon like abilities to blend into any social or racial group. This gives Woody a chance for some great visual gags and some great lines.

The very clever cinematography is what most people will remember. Zelig is seen on film talking or interacting with many famous people. Quite how they did this in the days before CGI I don't know. Also worthy of a special mention is the authentic music, which captures the 1920s and 1930s era brilliantly.

Although this isn't up there with the very top rank of Woody Allen films (i.e. Annie Hall, Manhattan etc) it does have quite a few moments of genius in it, and at just under 80mins its over before you've finished laughing.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 11 May 2004
Zelig is a minor gem of a film, and in its own small way a trend-setter. Woody Allen used what were at the time ground-breaking special effects to insert Allen's fictional character into archive footage so convincingly that you can't detect the joins. But there is so much more here to relish...
Comparatively short, Zelig uses spoof documentary format to tell the tale of a human chameleon, a man who changes to blend into whichever environment he happens to be (eg. black for an encounter with Jesse Owens.) As such, this is a fresh, lightweight and funny film with much to say about human group behaviour and our need to be loved and liked. Allen doesn't preach in the slightest, but his thoughtfully allegorical message blends into the tale at just the right level to be effective.
In fact, if you had to criticise Zelig it might be that another director might have made it altogether a darker yarn. But in Wood's sure hands this is a gentle film that will not tax your imagination but will delight at all levels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 27 October 2010
When Woody Allen was young his movies were mostly zany. As he matured his work began to have a more reflective air. Zelig is possibly the last of the young Woody Allen as he crosses over to his new view on life. It's witty, clever and makes you think.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 28 November 2002
No Woody Allen movie can be better than this. It is really difficult to try and find the correct wording to describe this production, you have to get and see. The movie is definitely a masterpiece.
It is sort of like a documentary with the usual Woody Allen style. The narrator is so successful that you may forget that what you are watching is actually a movie. The story is about Zelig, the human chameleon, who alters his personality and outfit according to who he is with, because of a psychological disorder: lack of self-trust. Allen takes this usual phenomenon, and takes the story to very high levels of imagination. This is probably one of the funniest productions I have ever seen. It is full of fun, sarcasm, and unpredicted weird happenings.
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
#1 HALL OF FAMEon 24 December 2002
Zelig (1983) came on the back of the sub-Smiles of a Summer Night movie, A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy. It is the film (along with Carl Reiner's Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid) that made key use of fusing the film's fictional characters with those from real documentary/film (though Citizen Kane had done this also). This is the key film that the risible Forrest Gump would borrow its style/techniques from.
Zelig ties in with Allen's previous themes from psychology, here the eponymous lead is a literal chameleon, blending in with those who surround him as he travels through recent history. Amusing that Allen borrowed the witness-interview form used in Warren Beatty's Reds (1981)- pity he was forced to repeat this in the recent Sweet & Lowdown (2000). Gordon Willis's photography is simply superb here- possibly his finest work.
Zelig is one of Allen's finest works- ranking up there with such greats as Sleeper, Love & Death, Annie Hall, Manhattan, Stardust Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo, Radio Days, Crimes & Misdeameanours, Husbands & Wives and Bullets Over Broadway. This film does need reissueing on VHS also!
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on 17 October 2014
An odd film, in a documentary style, about a fictional character in the 1920’s and 30’s. Shot in black and white with various real and created newsreel sections, it is a satire about a man who changes his appearance depending on who he is with in order to ‘fit in’ and conform. But that of course is just a metaphor, for what, is up to your own interpretation. I must admit I am not sure myself. Some parts come across as a bit silly, rather than funny. Very clever, and certainly unique, in my opinion, but perhaps not as entertaining as some of Woody’s other films.
three stars.
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on 27 June 2011
This is one of Woodys lesser known films which is a shame as it is very good. OK it's not his best but it's in my view in his top ten. The film is not a straight forward film it is more of a documentary in style a bit like Take The Money & Run. Which is not a bad thing.
There is nothing like this film out there and like most if not all of Woody's films this is based on a great script which is full of Woody's one liners. Which should put a smile on the most miserable of people.
So if you like silly but well written films then this is well worth a veiwing.
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on 16 August 2013
I enjoyed this movie but would not say it is as good as either Annie Hall or Manhattan. For me, Allen's movies with Diane Keaton are superior to most of his movies with Mia Farrow. Still, this movie is certainly worth buying if you are an Allen fan.
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