Jeremy's Reviews > Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemaking

Conversations with Woody Allen by Eric Lax
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's review
Dec 26, 07

bookshelves: film, interviews, bangor-public-library
Read in December, 2007

Despite and no doubt because of the incessant prodding and passion of moviewise peers, I've never really been able to drudge up much enthusiasm for the films of Woody Allen. With a handful of exceptions ("Deconstructing Harry" and "Crimes and Misdemeanors" come to mind), I don't feel that I derive much of anything from them. This is partly due to the fact that I have little in common with the target audience, that being Woody and the people who enjoy and have things in common with him. I hate cities, New York or what have you, I'm not Jewish, and while I do often take it upon myself to haltingly verbalize my own vast array of worries and inadequacies, I invariably disgust myself in the process, and listening to other people in the act of same, however wittily, is only slightly less irritating. But even without taking into account who his movies are "for", too many of his characters are privileged, self-important, and unlikable, and too many of his celebrated one-liners are just plain corny. Should you make the mistake of telling any of this to a Woody Allen fan, they, perhaps weary of defending his non-boringness to their forever unimpressed older relatives, may simply inform you that you're wrong and an idiot, unheeding dismissals that can make it instantly apparent how they might be able to relate to a stock Allen socialite.

It turns out, however, that I could listen to the man talk about his creative process all day. These interviews are candid, inspiring, and, above all, entertaining. I was disarmed to find that Allen has many of the same problems with his work that I do. He's mystified that people are so taken with "Manhattan", has almost nothing good to say about his earlier comedies, and feels that "Manhattan Murder Mystery" is among his best work. Throughout, despite plenty of questions gently directed toward specific films, Woody is far more inclined and excited to talk about the writing process, and the habits and thought processes involved in squeezing ideas out of your head onto a legal pad and then cramming that legal pad down the throats of a group of strangers and trying to get millions of other strangers interested in the filmed results. I like that when he feels strapped for ideas, he takes a shower. I bet that totally works.

I couldn't say what led me to give this book a shot, given my blase stand on its subject, but I'm awfully glad I did, because it not only made me want to reconsider Allen's output (several of his comments have made me particularly eager to give "Zelig" another chance), it actually gave me that little "hey, I actually feel like writing something now, what the hell?" feeling that never seems to come around too often these days. Simply put, you'll be spending a few hours with a smart, funny guy. His movies may be divisive, but judging by his conversation here the man is good company for just about anyone.
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message 1: by Malbadeen (last edited Nov 23, 2007 07:26AM) (new)

Malbadeen I almost bought this book the other day (i thought you might want to know that).
This weekend I was called Woody Allen by 2 different people in 2 different settings.
I'm not sure what they meant and it's totally stressing me out! I haven't slept a wink since then and I've developed a little red dot on my left eyeball, which I'm sure is an early indication of a brain tumor.
I would, of course, think that this is my divine retribution for saying I would go see my grandma at the nursing home on Thanksgiving and then not following through. Except that I think any notion of "divine retribution" is just another form of superstition (not that I would say that out loud as I believe it is bad luck to do so).
But come on! Woody Allen? For Christ Sake I'm not even Jewish (and I mean no disrespect to Christ or Jewish people when I say that).

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