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Conversations with Woody Allen: His Films, the Movies, and Moviemakingby Eric Lax
Synopses & Reviews
From the author of the best-selling biography Woody Allen — the most informative, revealing, and entertaining conversations from his thirty-six years of interviewing the great comedian and filmmaker.
For more than three decades, Woody Allen has been talking regularly and candidly with Eric Lax, and has given him singular and unfettered access to his film sets, his editing room, and his thoughts and observations. In discussions that begin in 1971 and continue into 2007, Allen discusses every facet of moviemaking through the prism of his own films and the work of directors he admires. In doing so, he reveals an artist's development over the course of his career to date, from joke writer to standup comedian to world-acclaimed filmmaker.
Woody talks about the seeds of his ideas and the writing of his screenplays; about casting and acting, shooting and directing, editing and scoring. He tells how he reworks screenplays even while filming them. He describes the problems he has had casting American men, and he explains why he admires the acting of (among many others) Alan Alda, Marlon Brando, Michael Caine, John Cusack, Judy Davis, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Mia Farrow, Gene Hackman, Scarlett Johansson, Julie Kavner, Liam Neeson, Jack Nicholson, Charlize Theron, Tracey Ullman, Sam Waterston, and Dianne Wiest. He places Diane Keaton second only to Judy Holliday in the pantheon of great screen comediennes.
He discusses his favorite films (Citizen Kane is the lone American movie on his list of sixteen best films ever made; Duck Soup and Airplane are two of his preferred comedian's films; Trouble in Paradise and Born Yesterday among his favorite talking-plot comedies). He describes himself as a boy in Brooklyn enthralled by the joke-laden movies of Bob Hope and the sophisticated film stories of Manhattan. As a director, he tells us what he appreciates about Bergman, De Sica, Fellini, Welles, Kurosawa, John Huston, and Jean Renoir. Throughout he shows himself to be thoughtful, honest, self-deprecating, witty, and often hilarious.
Conversations with Woody Allen is essential reading for everyone interested in the art of moviemaking and for everyone who has enjoyed the films of Woody Allen.
"Woody Allen biographer Lax has been conversing with the elusive, beloved film director for 36 years, and here's the proof: transcripts of their detailed shop talk distilled into chapters covering seven elements of filmmaking-writing, casting, shooting, etc.-and Allen's career as a whole. Despite a reputation for being odd and unapproachable, the man revealed in these dialogues is likable, forthcoming and even humble: 'It's just not in me to make a great film; I don't have the depth of vision to do it.' Fans, of course, will want to argue otherwise, but they'll be too absorbed by this fascinating, decades-long discussion to register the grievance. From the tremendous stable of actors Allen has directed-especially former muses Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow-to the deceptively intriguing details of editing Another Woman, Lax's interviews are penetrating but far from formal, giving readers the unique opportunity to hear Allen's thoughts on projects-in-progress (everything from Bananas to Match Point) and to join him on location. Fans will find a trove of Woody-on-Woody insight (heavy on second-guessing, light on personal details), and there's much advice for the aspiring artist: 'The key is to work, enjoy the process, don't read about yourself... and keep your nose to the grindstone.' Even casual fans will appreciate this work; with a handy index for tracking down favorite films and something interesting on nearly every page, it's a perfectly browsable volume. B/w photos." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Woody Allen isn't prone to such exuberance in this book, which draws on interviews conducted by Eric Lax between 1973 and 2006. Nobody who knows his films would expect such outbursts, though. Allen is a famously on-time, on-budget director, and despite his constant protestations that he's lazy, he's usually juggling at least two projects whenever Lax arrives with his tape recorder. Their chats often... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) drift into fans-only turf: how Allen edited a sequence, how a shower helps him process an idea, how he got a plum deal to include opera music in 'Match Point' cheaply. There's little chatter about stars ('I don't talk to them,' he says at one point) and less about his personal life. For that, read Lax's 1991 biography, updated in 2000 to reflect Allen's split with Mia Farrow and his marriage to her adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn. Despite that scandal, Allen appears a little bloodless. But he also never seems old — an enthusiasm for filmmaking radiates from him even when he knows he's making a clunker like 'Scoop,' and Lax's informed (though rarely provocative) questions allow Allen to speak with intelligence and maturity without sounding worn down. Somehow the neurotic comedian has discovered the fountain of youth that Hollywood tries to simulate with face-lifts and soft-focus lenses. It's like he hasn't aged a day. Mark Athitakis is the arts editor of Washington City Paper." Reviewed by Mark Athitakis, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Conversations is essential reading for aspiring filmmakers and those who wish to eventually put finger to keyboard in hopes of telling a story, but it is no less intriguing for simple cinephiles." Los Angeles Times
From the author of the bestselling biography Woody Allen comes this collection of the most revealing conversations from Lax's 36 years of interviewing the great comedian and filmmaker. Photographs throughout.
About the Author
Eric Lax is the author of On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, Life and Death on 10 West, and The Mold in Dr. Florey's Coat, and coauthor (with A. M. Sperber) of Bogart. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Vanity Fair, Esquire, and the Los Angeles Times. An officer of International PEN, he lives with his wife and their two sons in Los Angeles.
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