May 06, 2002 12:00 PM

A Life in Film
Turner Classic Movies (Sat, May 4, 8 p.m. ET)

Woody Allen’s most recent pictures (The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Small Time Crooks) may have been disposable, but this documentary by producer-director (and TIME magazine critic) Richard Schickel is a keeper. The concept is simple: The subject sits for a close-up interview, speaking thoughtfully and amusingly about his movies, while clips illuminate his themes and techniques. The white-on-black section titles (“The Anxiety of Influence,” “The Curse of the Chattering Class”) make this film about Allen look like a film by Allen. Devotees of the Woodman could hardly ask for more.

When he insists he’s no intellectual or professes surprise that many took Stardust Memories as his personal plaint, Allen seems a tad disingenuous. But in his conversation, as in his films, part of Allen’s appeal is his willingness to laugh at his own turn of mind. Discussing Crimes and Misdemeanors, he says with a smile, “I just wanted to illustrate—in an entertaining way—that there is no God.”

The documentary—tied to TCM’s May festival of Allen movies and the release of his new Hollywood Ending—suffers somewhat from his ex-companion Mia Farrow’s refusal to allow the use of clips in which she appears. Still, the actors’ faces count less here than the filmmaker’s insights.

Bottom Line: Play it again, Woody

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