It’s amazing to see that Woody Allen is as neurotic as his most beloved movie characters. He exudes the same awkward energy that Annie Hall’s Alvy Singer produces, the same reaffirmed, hidden gusto that Stardust Memories’ Sandy Bates provides. Wild Man Blues is a behind the scenes look at Allen, a rare moment where he allows the cameras to be turned on him, without him directing as well. We follow Allen and his journey through jazz music, his passion away from filmmaking in this ill-forgotten documentary from Barbara Kopple.
Allen has a certain bite to him, an almost hardened shell of a man travelling around Europe, cracking jokes and swearing. It’s a whole new side that we’ve not seen in his films, and that’s possibly the biggest draw of the documentary. Giving us unprecedented access into Allen’s jazz tour and even personal life, Wild Man Blues’ biggest draw is most likely its behind the scenes look. All of those behind the scenes pieces are just contemporary news articles though, alongside some shots of him eating his breakfast or talking with his wife and sister.
For those interested in that, then this documentary will settle well. I thought I’d be interested in seeing how the stress or anxieties of performing a live jazz tour would affect Allen and his family, but I wasn’t. As it turns out, he handles it all very well, and his handling of the struggles and affairs of his tour makes this a boring watch. We’re just watching a now elderly director walk around foreign European cities, talking to the press, and sometimes talking to his wife. There’s nothing really of interest, but at the same time it’s hard not to stop watching in the hopes that something will in fact happen.
The scenes of the concerts Allen perform are too short to fully invest in and enjoy, but long enough to get a scope of his musical talent. We see scenes of Allen blending his comic persona into his performances, his musical propensity elicits some hearty applause from time to time, with an engaged audience. It’s hard not to enjoy these scenes, in part due to the good music and also because the band are having a good time. It provides us a behind the scenes look to Allen, who feels humble at times and confidently boastful at others. Not boastful of his career though, boastful of his comedy.
Definitely one for those who are hardcore fans of Woody Allen’s work like myself, there won’t be much interest in this one if you don’t have an appreciation or value of his filmography. Even then, it may provide an interesting case study to who he is in the real world, the defences that his films provide him are torn away in this middling documentary. Perhaps further interest in his career or even jazz music may help those on the fence about watching this piece.