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[whitespace] Wild Man Blues
Dithering Venice: Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn glide anxiously through a canal in Barbara Kopple's 'Wild Man Blues.'

'Wild Man Blues' follows musical gagster through Europe

By Richard von Busack

TAKE HIM to Spain, hear him complain. Documentary filmmaker Barbara Kopple--who made American Dream, about the Hormel strike in Austin, Minn.--follows Woody Allen and his Dixieland combo on a tour of Europe in Wild Man Blues. It is the irony of life that a man who regards himself as "a famous, famous claustrophobic" would be so surrounded by adoring fans; adding to Allen's angst is the knowledge that if it weren't for his fame, no one would line up for this kind of music.

Soon-Yi Previn, the first to remind him of the peculiar nature of his fame and his music, accompanies Allen. Figuring out their relationship is certainly more intriguing than making it through the concert footage. Allen, although a serious clarinetist, is a moldy fig's moldy fig, who prefers standards such as "Old Rugged Cross," "Rock of Ages" and "Down by the Riverside." You can entertain yourself during the slow parts making one snap judgment after another about Allen and Previn. In the second half of the film, Allen gets over his illness of ease at being the subject of a documentary. That's when the wit comes out; watching him fret over the sinisterness of Venice and getting seasick on a lagoon ("The gondolier could cut our throats and no one would be the wiser") provides a glimpse of the turtlelike Allen who made anhedonia pay better than anyone else has in the history of the movies.

Wild Man Blues (PG; 104 min.), a documentary by Barbara Kopple.

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From the May 7-13, 1998 issue of Metro.

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