Wild Man Blues
by Del Harvey
Fascinating glimpse into a life rarely seen by the public eye, as well as an inspired sampling of traditional American jazz music.
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In no other filmmaker’s work am I so aware of the sound track as in those of Woody Allen. A lover of traditional American jazz music, his scores inevitably compliment his films more than any other director’s. A superb screenwriter, a master of comic timing, Mr. Allen is also an accomplished musician, as shown in documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple’s Wild Man Blues.
With an array of musicians who, combined, are rivaled only by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Mr. Allen and Company embarked on a European tour in 1996, and the oft elusive director allowed Barbara Kopple to follow them with her camera. For the tour he is joined by his sister, Letty, and his then-new wife, Soon-Yi Previn. Contrary to the stories so strongly promoted in the media, Ms. Previn seems to be the perfectly serene and mature counterpart to her husband. Visiting exotic locales, Allen and entourage move through their days with quiet purpose towards each evening’s events. Well, except in Mr. Allen’s case, whose days are often quite anxiety-laden. But once he takes the stage, clarinet in hand, and becomes just another member of the band, then does the true character of the little boy inside the man emerge, the eyes lively and eager to catch that shared joy from his bandmates as well as from the audience.
We are given some unique insight into the celebrity’s world as he visits his parents, whose response to his achievements suggest the source of his legendary anxiety. It is the candid nature and openness during these moments which is most endearing and enlightening, and ultimately refreshing.
Possessing not just technique, but also the refined spirit of a Jazz-borne wild man, this exposure of Woody Allen’s love of music is a delight for the eyes, ears, and soul of any movie lover.
Del Harvey is a writer and the founder of Film Monthly. He is also a devout Chicago Bears fan, loves Grant Park in any season, and recently taught screenwriting at Columbia College Chicago.
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