Twilight Time Movies – ‘Zelig’ (1983)

❉ The latest in our occasional series of reviews of Twilight Time Movies classic Blu-ray and DVD titles.

Yet another fabulous Twilight Time Blu-ray release, Woody Allen’s Zelig is one of the most aesthetically heightened films of the master filmmaker’s career, and boldly shot by legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis (The Godfather, The Parallax View), who previously wasn’t used to this sort of stylistic affectations. Zelig is a brilliant comedy, and it’s the film that would mark the first time that Willis would receive an Oscar nomination for his visual compositions.  Simply put, this film is a cinematographer’s dream come true, as the narrative offered up nearly every artistic chance for a technician to feel truly unleashed.

In conjunction with Allen’s clever screenplay and his many other collaborators, Willis’ highly inventive work on this film effortlessly combined various film-aging techniques, blue-screen shooting, and old-fashioned stills photography, all of it done in an effort to credibly place the film’s main character, played by Allen, into a virtual archive of popular images from 20th century events. It’s also a romance, a social drama, a satire, and a deconstruction of the artistic form, and in a very casual way, it resembles a more challenging and abstract Forrest Gump scenario without the modern computer-assisted trickery and overt sentimentality.

Mia Farrow co-starred, with Allen playing Leonard Zelig, a shell of a man who is so desperate to be liked and to fit in with society, that he begins to exhibit the personalities of those around him. Released in 1983 and shot and narrated in the style of 1920’s black-and-white newsreels which were then intertwined with archival footage and re-enactments from real historical events, the filmmakers also included color segments from the present day.

The list of real-life subjects who figure into the film is insane to contemplate, with vintage footage showcasing Charles Lindbergh, Al Capone, Clara Bow, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, Josephine Baker, Fanny Brice, Carole Lombard, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Goebbels, James Cagney, Lou Gehrig, Babe Ruth, Tom Mix, Pope Pius XI, and many others. And keep in mind, this was years before computers and CGI would make these technical endeavors easier and more readily seamless, so it’s even more impressive in retrospect to see what Allen and his team were able to create in this hilarious, touching, and extremely unique mockumentary that feels like one of Woody’s more under-discussed efforts on his endlessly fascinating filmography.

Rounding out the cast are Garrett Brown, Stephanie Farrow, Will Holt, Mary Louise Wilson, and Michael Jeter. Garrett Brown, Stephanie Farrow, Will Holt, Mary Louise Wilson, and Michael Jeter, while Dick Hyman’s playful and comic musical score enlivens the atmosphere. Apparently, in the time it took to complete the film’s special effects, Allen was able to film two other features: A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, and Broadway Danny Rose. Notably, Zelig also stands as the final release from Orion Pictures that was distributed by Warner Brothers until 2017.

As per usual, the digital artisans at Twilight Time have crafted an impeccable looking region-free Blu-ray release, which is of course limited to 3,000 units. The black and white imagery is stark, silky, and very smooth looking, with bright whites and deep blacks, while the color segments pop in the manner which you’d expect. Video is presented in 1080p High Definition in the film’s original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Sound offerings include English 1.0 DTS-HD MA and German 1.0 DTS-HD MA. Special features include an Isolated Score Track and the film’s Original Theatrical Trailer.


❉ Twilight Time Movies release classic catalogue Blu-ray and DVD titles available for a limited time, exclusively in limited runs of 3000 copies. For more information, visit https://www.twilighttimemovies.com

 Nick Clement is a freelance writer, having contributed to Variety Magazine, Hollywood- Elsewhere, Awards Daily, Back to the Movies, and Taste of Cinema. He’s currently writing a book about the works of filmmaker Tony Scott.

 He is also a regular contributor for MovieViral.com, a site dedicated to providing the best news and analysis on viral marketing and ARG campaigns for films and other forms of entertainment.

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