Zelig (1983)







Woody Allen, Mia Farrow, Patrick Horgan, Garrett M. Brown, Stephanie Farrow, Will Holt, Sol Lomita, John Rothman, Deborah Rush, Marianne Tatum, Mary Louise Tatum


A documentary telling the story of human chameleon Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen), a man who becomes a celebrity in the 1920's due to his ability to look and act like whoever is around him. 


Leapin' lizards! What a perfect blend of old and new Woody! "Zelig" is a brilliant, amusing, and witty portrait of a deep psychological crisis that brings mockumentary to another level.

First of all it must be said that the concept is pure genius: the biography of a fictional character isn't new, and certainly wasn't invented by Allen, but this particular character is different, he is a human chameleon, a man able to take on the shape and personality of anyone around him to satisfy his continuous need to fit in society. 

The film has a lot to say about media sensationalism, society, and especially conformity. As the film urges, everyone should do the Chameleon by seeing Leonard Zelig, and Woody Allen uses that to create a comment on people's desire to conformity, trying to blend in with the crowd even at the expenses of their persona.

Allen brilliantly combined edited newsreel footage in which Leonard Zelig meets various historical figures - it should be noted that eleven years later the highly acclaimed "Forrest Gump" did the exact same thing -, real interviews discussing the life of Zelig, and a narrator that can make you forget it's just fiction. 

Furthermore, "Zelig" is the only Allen's 'mature' film that has the same level of silliness of his early funny films. He had already parodied the documentary format before in "Take the Money and Run", but while that was just a silly, hilarious film, this one shows the maturation of the director.

Behind the camera that uses lenses from the 20's to create a more realistic atmosphere there is no one other than Gordon Willis, which does a wonderful job. The music by Allen veteran Dick Hyman suits the period brilliantly, and give you the sense that you are there.

This is most likely Woody Allen's most underrated film. 

I'm 12 years old. I run into a Synagogue. I ask the Rabbi the meaning of life. He tells me the meaning of life... But, he tells it to me in Hebrew. I don't understand Hebrew. Then he wants to charge me six hundred dollars for Hebrew lessons. - Leonard Zelig


  1. I now put this movie on my to watch list :D

  2. I have always wanted to see this film and with your great review, I really want to now:)

  3. I thought that it was a good, but not great film. When I saw it in a theater back in '83, a couple walked out. I suppose they got bored with the movie.