Woody: Movies from Manhattan

Julian Fox, Author
Julian Fox, Author Overlook Press $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-87951-692-5
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Anyone looking for gossip or details of Woody Allen's love life should look elsewhere than in this interpretive biography of the writer, actor and director. Allen's family background and early career in stand-up are dispensed with in a few pages, and his romantic attachments and the recent scandal with Mia Farrow are sketched only in their barest outlines, and only as they pertain to his art. But anyone interested in the making of Allen's films, and in their critical and public reception, will find this book invaluable. Fox, a film journalist and actor, offers thoughtful and insightful readings of each film, with particular emphasis on Allen as ""a middle-class, New York Jewish Chekhov."" What makes his presentation especially illuminating, however, are his lovingly detailed accounts of how each film was made. Each of Allen's movies, especially since Sleeper, has been the result of absolute directorial control married to utter chaos, as Allen rewrites, recasts and reinvents films already in progress, often reshooting as much as 80% of a movie. Fox's passages on the creation of Allen's breakthrough film, Annie Hall, are particularly revealing, showing that the final product, hailed immediately by critics as a masterpiece, bears little relation to the original idea, or even to Allen's conception of the film as it was being shot. Fox also explores in detail the crucial contributions of such frequent Allen collaborators as editor Ralph Rosenblum and cinematographer Gordon Willis. Not only an essential book for Allen students and fans, this is also a wonderful read for anyone curious about the day-to-day realities of filmmaking. Photos and an exhaustive filmography. (Dec.)
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