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This one doesn't rip him apart in matters that don't matter
on July 11, 2001
A natural stage in my succession of becoming a Woody Allen freak was picking up a biography. Any single one would have suited my needs, because I knew only as much as somebody who had seen ten or so of his movies and was beginning to show some serious interest in this singular personality.
It turned out that by accident I had picked out just the right book. Eric Lax delivers over 400 pages of what seems to be a very detailed and reliable account of Woody's life. Contrary to the tabloid-like obsession with Allen's women which many writers of today appear to revel, Lax's primary emphasis is on his work, influences, and progress as a comedian. A special section was added to the end of the book to summarise the events of the last ten years (the first edition of this biography was published in 1991), including the row with Mia Farrow and Woody's marriage to Soon-Yi Previn. But it remains a biography of the man it boasts in the title, not a collection of second-hand conjectures and prejudices about what he might seem to be. Indeed, this is left to the army of Woody admirers who like to derive his character from the roles he has played or written.
The shattering of preconceived images that surround the private self of Woody Allen is probably one of the major strengths of Lax's book. Woody is shown as somebody who has been engaging in his beloved trade for years and now shows genuine surprise about all the fuss that is being raised around his straightforward life. Nevertheless, I refuse to buy such a portrayal, simply because I am one of those blind followers who have merged Woody on-screen with the real-life Woody. True or not, it is an illusion I am prepared to live, for that is the main attraction of his movies.