This very promising-sounding documentary about Woody Allen premiers tonight and tomorrow on PBS’s American Masters. Mr. Allen and others often spout off about how he alone among the upper echelon of American film-makers has not been influential; there are supposedly no obvious acorns off Mr. Allen’s tree. That’s not true at all. Certainly, no one has copied his stodgy, boring dramas. They themselves are copies of Bergman, Fellini and others, so what’s to emulate? On the other hand, if I may point out the 800 lb. gorilla in the room, Allen’s early films, Take the Money and Run through Love and Death are enormously influential; they’re what most of us cherish and hope for (in vain, mostly) from subsequent Allen comedies. These crazy comedies paved the way for the string of Mel Brooks spoofs that began with Blazing Saddles, for similar movies by Gene Wilder, a couple by Neil Simon (Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective), the Zucker Brothers franchises (Airplane! et al) and the Scary Movie series. I’m sorry that comedy doesn’t get the respect it deserves, but there have you have it. And I would also counter that Allen’s later, more human comedies also have their exponents and acolytes. Anyone ever hear of Whit Stillman? (Probably not, but you ought to have had anyway). And if I ever get to make the films I hope to make, he’ll have influenced ME!
At any rate, I’m very much looking forward to tuning in! More detail is here.