Zelig

When I saw the film Zelig in 1983, I saw myself. And probably so did everyone else who watched it. It was shown again late the other night on PBS and I caught the last and most outrageous 15 minutes. The movie struck me as more rich than ever.
In the movie, Woody Allen becomes a chameleon-like figure who traipses through 1920s and 1930s American and European “society” while contemporary commentators like Susan Sontag speak on his changeability and historical relevance. The movie, pre-Forest Gump, pre-Truman Show and pre-FX, was a fake documentary that I predict will be of import in the near future as we look back on a presidency and a culture that feel unreal, mocked up, and yet strangely insulated from the exigencies of “modern” living.
Documentaries, like F 9/11 and the host of others, are key components of a culture in crisis. Mockumentaries like Zelig, This is Spinal Tap, and The Blair Witch Project seem to come at a time of cultural stasis, when the most riotous times are forgiven and life is better lived than feared. P.S. Friend V.S. rightly adds Being There to the list; there are of course many other appropriately apolitical (except for the brilliant Bob Roberts) mockumentaries.

2 thoughts on “Zelig”

  1. ‘Bob Roberts’ and ‘Being There’ – if there were ever two political satires that deserved to share the same sentence, it’s those two: The evil counter-culture appropriator and the vacant, televisual assimilator.
    On another board I belong to, we ran through a whole clutch of political-themed films – another notable few: ‘The Candidate'(1972), ‘A Face in the Crowd'(1957), ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ (1962, 2004 – remake out soon!), ‘Primary Colors'(1992), ‘The Contender’ (2000),’The Farmer’s Daughter'(1947) and just for fun ‘Election’ (1999) w/ Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick as well as ‘Bulworth’ (1998).

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