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Zelig - 1983Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 79 minutes
When released, the noteworthy special effects probably eclipsed the film's story. Over time, the film's subtle messages about fascism and tyranny have become more appreciated.
Everyman Leonard Zelig is literally capable of being any and every man, a human vessel who embodies our sociological urge to conform. He comes to the attention of the public through the media when he is sighted at affluent social gatherings, appearing to some as one man and moments later, as another. In fact, his ability to become everything to everybody makes him a blockbuster celebrity.
Zelig's metamorphosis is material; he physically takes on the ethnic characteristics or manifests the weight proportions of those around him, complete with spontaneous facial hair and costume. The gimmick-crazed public makes him an instant celebrity, and his popularity soars through merchandising tie-ins. A cavalcade of dances, songs and games are created around his phenomenon.
Dr. Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow) is certain he is the victim of a psychological malady and takes charge of his case when he is brought to Manhattan Hospital for evaluation. Zelig slips away to Europe for awhile, where he finds home in Nazi Germany amidst Adolph Hitler. Fletcher eventually gets him back in her custody and uses early hypnotherapy techniques to breakthrough to the "real" man inside. In the course of the film, our hero is celebrated, exploited, lionized and demonized in a sensation-hungry world.
The thinking person's Forrest Gump, Woody Allen's 1983 Zelig is a funny, atmospheric mock-documentary about the collision of one man's manifest neuroses colliding with key moments in 20th-century history. Allen plays the title character, a self-effacing, timorous fellow with such a porous personality that he physically becomes a reflection of whoever he is with.
Complex and painstaking, the film's pre-Gump special effects manage to place Allen, buried under a series of makeup and prosthetic guises, in a number of scenes along with Adolf Hitler at a Nazi rally, a pope at the Vatican, and famous guests at a garden party hosted by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Similar in tone and satire to some of Allen's short, comic pieces published in The New Yorker magazine, Zelig is a one-note movie that takes its delicious time establishing the fullness of its central joke. It's well worth the wait.
-Tom Keogh from Amazon.com
Release Date: July 15, 1983 (USA) March 16, 1983 (Sweeden), February 3, 1984 (Finland)
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