One of the most aesthetically heightened films on Woody Allen’s resume, and boldly shot by master cinematographer Gordon Willis, who 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. 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. His highly inventive work on this film, in tandem with Allen’s clever screenplay, which effortlessly combined various film aging techniques, blue screen compositions, and old-fashioned stills photography, was 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. The film was shot and narrated in the style of 1920s black-and-white newsreels which were then intertwined with archival footage and re-enactments from real historical events, and also included color segments from the present day. 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 Willis were able to create in this hilarious, touching, and extremely unique mockumentary that feels like one of Allen’s more under discussed efforts on his endlessly fascinating filmography.

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