Starring: Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Patrick Horgan
Director: Woody Allen
Running Time: 79 mins
Zelig is an American film about the story of “The Human Chameleon”, Leonard Zelig, a man who could transform himself to impersonate the people around him.
This is a really fun film. Taking the mockumentary genre to extreme lengths, it’s an incredibly well-directed and authentically styled film that would be probably fool anyone none the wiser to it. With a farcical story that’s handled with great humour, and a consistent desire to be as convincing a ‘documentary’ as possible, Zelig is great fun to watch from start to finish.
We all know Woody Allen’s love for all things 20s and 30s, but there’s something about this film that takes it all to another level. The movie is made exactly like a documentary, with a narrator, various interviews from the present day, and a bucketload of archive footage and photos from the time when The Human Chameleon was around.
What’s most fun about it, however, is that it continues with its seriously-styled documentary approach through some of the silliest and most ridiculous scenarios surrounding the magical transforming man without breaking its illusion once.
The present-day interviews seem as earnest as possible, and the footage and images from the 20s and 30s look incredibly authentic – to the extent that you do forget about the fact that it’s not real from time to time.
Now, of course, this film’s main objective isn’t to fool you into believing its story, that’s just a biproduct of how well-made it is, but the story at hand is also very effective.
Although it’s utterly ridiculous to even consider, the story of a man with such a remarkable condition sending the world’s press into a frenzy, followed by the inevitable slowdown after such a fad, is entirely rooted in reality, and it’s the structure of the story surrounding the crazy central figure that’s most interesting, again to the extent that you can be properly engrossed and interested in what ends up happening to Leonard Zelig.
Overall, I really enjoyed Zelig. It’s a really fun idea executed brilliantly, with a very authentically-styled documentary vibe, a great sense of humour and a surprisingly interesting, albeit ridiculous, story throughout, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.8.