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Brilliant, creative, unique masterpiece
Aug 21, 2006 09:21 PM 1929 Views

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This movie pretends to be a 'documentary' about a 'real' character called Zelig. Leonard Zelig (played by Woody Allen) has a very curious disorder. He has such a regressive personality, or maybe no personality, that he just assumes the characteristics of anyone he meets who is of influence. His desire to fit in to society is such a consuming urge, that he starts to physically change appearance and behavior to match the people he meets. Human chameleon. The highlight was Woody Allen's unremarkable Jewish features slowly turning Chinese, or African. Eye-popping. Its best to watch this movie without knowing the entire story, if you can find it somewhere.


How can a person change physical appearance on will? It is humorously explained as an extreme condition of the mind, where it starts to influence the body. Emotions do show up as physical manifestations, we blush when embarrassed, turn red with anger. Our social survival instincts lead all of us to adapt our behavior and appearance to some extent or other. When in Rome, do as Romans do etc. But this is a very bizarre plot that takes it to extremes. There are many who aspire to become doctors and engineers, but who starts wearing a white coat, and actually trying to treat people, including performing surgery on them? The trouble with Zelig is that whenever he spots someone or something he likes, he's like under some kind of self-hypnosis. He really believes he's a doctor, he's not aware that he is just pretending. He dresses, he walks, he lives and he talks (even medical jargon) like them. Its a bit scary and the first time I happened to see it without knowing anything about the movie, it boggled the hell out of my mind. How can he possibly talk medical jargon without the necessary education? Again, the explanation is that our unconscious minds pick up and store far more data from our surroundings - TV, media, other people - than our conscious minds can use, and it can be revealed in these special conditions when the unconscious takes over from the conscious.


The movie continues on for 80 mins with Zelig travelling to meet all kinds of famous people-surgeons, sportsmen, actors, politicians- and turning briefly into someone just like them, while a woman(a doctor) who is keeping him under observation, falls in love with him. I have not seen a more bizarre movie in my entire movie-going life. That may sound like you should avoid it, but no, you should watch it- it is completely original, with typical Allen one-liner jokes. Raises interesting questions about what is individual identity and personality - I was a bit perplexed how that woman doctor(Mia Farrow) can fall in love with someone who doesnt know who he really is.


A dark comedy, also directed by Woody. Its set in the period of the 1920s. Woody wants to make it look like a real documentary, so in between scenes with Zelig, there are montages of old black and white docu-footage, complete with scratches and flashes, and period-appropriate music, as it would be if a TV short were made about the character in those times.Even includes some genuine-looking footage of Adolf Hitler, Charlie Chaplin, with Zelig make it look authentic. It is so well done as to trick you into believing these are real filmed footage of some true-life character. No, Zelig is purely fictional. A complex film that appears superficially as a silly spoof, but goes deeper than that. Zelig believes he must be exactly like the society that surrounds him to be considered normal, yet this desire is what turns him into a freak show.


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