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Woody Allen.

WOODY ALLEN by Eric Lax (Knopf, 385 p.) is an unusual biography, not only in that it is one of the very few biographies that combine Allen's personal life with his large volume of film work, but also because it manages to give a fascinating insight into a man everybody knows -- and nobody knows.

Allen's reluctance to come into the limelight is legendary. Lax, who has been close to him for some years, is in a wonderful position to explain the man, his creative and thought processes, his neuroses and his unique ways of putting thoughts on film. Clearly, Lax is an admirer as well as an observer, and perhaps the book suffers from that, but it is a revealing study of an original mind. One of the most interesting aspects of the book concerns the evolution of Woody Allen, standup comedian, to one of the world's best -- and most acclaimed -- directors.

As Lax pointed out: Not all of Allen's films are masterpieces, but "it is easy to be entertained by a Woody Allen movie and equally difficult to be bored, because his intelligence and vision are always on display."

Lax stitches together a colorful portrait of Allen, and how the man's mind works, his attitudes, life with Mia Farrow, his quirks (he hates nature-in-the raw), his secretiveness, his search for "perfection," and his urge to make the transition from the purely comic to the serious.

The book illustrates Allen's free-wheeling ways when it comes to budgets, and Lax makes it clear that Allen isn't impressed by the box office. In fact, he considers Stardust Memories, one of his major flops, though it is one of his best efforts.

Woody has been nominated five times for an Oscar as Best Director, and nine times for Best Original Screenplay. Ten of the 15 movies he made between 1977 and 1990, were nominated for awards. Yet, Allen doesn't value the Academy Awards. "They are political, bought, and negotiated for," Lax quoted him as saying.

Woody Allen is a very complete book. From its pages arises a vastly talented, complicated creator, whose intelligence and wry sense of humor shines brightly from every script. Apparently unaffected by the economics of the business, Allen is always himself, which greatly benefits the audience and, in this case, will delight the reader.
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Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Nov 1, 1991
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