Woody Allen is known for his self-depreciating humor, and his earlier films usually revolve around various versions of himself dealing with various neuroses and sexual dysfunctions. Yet, with a film like Take the Money and Run, Allen experiments with documentary form to create a third-person account of the typical Allen character. Expanding upon his work from Take the Money and Run, Allen uses a host of camera techniques and tricks to create a true-to-the-period mockumentary, Zelig.
Zelig is centered around a turn-of-the-century character of the same name (played by Allen), who, due to an unknown disorder, blends in with his social environment in order to be accepted by various groups of people. The film opens with various pictures detailing the earliest known whereabouts of Leonard Zelig; blending in as a black jazz musician, as an affluent guest at a Connecticut mansion, and as a powerful Italian mafia figure. With the narration of Patrick Horgan, Zelig takes on the personality of a 1920’s newsreel reminiscent of the opening of Citizen Kane. Detailing Zelig’s progress through the historically quaint New York City hospital system, his release into the hands of a carnival director, and his relationship with psychiatrist Dr. Eudora Nesbitt Fletcher (Allen’s real life “partner” Mia Farrow), Zelig portrays its titular character as one of the most beloved in early 20th century America.