Mockumentaries are ten a penny these days, but in 1983 Zelig offered something startlingly new, as heavyweight talking heads such as Saul Bellow and Susan Sontag discuss an entirely fictional character who is nonetheless strangely convincing.
Leonard Zelig (Woody Allen) is a man so introverted and insecure that he has developed the ability to blend perfectly into the background of any given situation, regardless of the personality or even ethnicity of the people around him. But when he inadvertently becomes famous as “the human chameleon” after the media takes too keen an interest in his therapy sessions with Dr Eudora Fletcher (Mia Farrow), Zelig is faced with an unprecedented challenge: how do you fade into the background when the spotlight is firmly upon you?
Zelig isn’t just hilarious but also an incredible technical accomplishment. Without any recourse to CGI techniques that had yet to be invented, Oscar-nominated cinematographer Gordon Willis inserts Zelig into actual 1920s and 30s footage so seamlessly that you’re convinced that he’s really interacting with the likes of Babe Ruth and Adolf Hitler.
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