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on November 9, 2002
A very relaxed and interesting discussion regarding the development of Allen's style and indivisual films that is very entertaining. This is an excellent companion to his earlier films. Bjorkman asks excellent questions that keep the discussion flowing in a chronological sense yet allow for Woody Allen to address many interssting topics related to his work.
The focus here is really the body of work and not Allen's personal life. Like sitting with a bottle of wine and talking to two intelligent filmmakers about their craft.
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on January 29, 2000
This book simply is a must for people who are interested in film!
Whether you love or hate Woody Allen's work, there is a great deal to learn on film history from this book.
Stig Björkman knows so much about all aspects of film and therefore delivers an outrageously professional interview. But still, the interviewer stays humble, asking questions showing a profound knowledge of the subject. Since Woody Allen is very good at answering in a direct but well thought about way, it never gets boring and never seems primitive that the book is written simply in direct dialogue.
What I personally appreciate as well is that the talk is purely about film and about Woody Allen as an artist - his private life does not enter unless it is closely related to the discussed subjects. So you get a very relevant view to Woody Allen's career. Because of Stig Björkman's high professionalism, and because of Woody Allen's conversation talent and open mind.
It never gets too intellectual either. In fact, it makes you want to watch the Woody Allen movies you haven't had the opportunity to watch yet.
The only minus is that the book is some years old so that it does not contain discussions on his recent very interesting films.
But as it is an unrejectable document on film history, "Woody Allen On Woody Allen" does belong on any film friends' bookshelf!
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on July 14, 2003
The only reason that I didn't give this book 5 stars in because it only goes up to Husbands & Wives. For anyone who loves Woody and wants to hear him speak in detail about his films, other films and his ideas, this book does not disapoint. I have many other books by or about filmmakers and this is certainly up there with the best. Woody talks about Bergman, Godard, Fellini, Truffaut, Hitchcock and many other filmmakers and films he likes. He discussed in depth each of his films from What's New Pussycat? to Husbands and Wives. This book is a must for fans of Woody Allen and for fans of film.
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on May 25, 2015
I am a long-time admirer of Woody Allen's films (at least most of them) and have read several books that evaluate his films, his film messages, and his filmmaking craft and have found them to be intellectually pretentious, so much so that their authors reminded me of the pretentious characters he so humorously satirizes in his films. While this book shows Allen to be a very intelligent and knowledgeable filmmaker (no surprise), it also reveals him to be a dedicated filmmaker who can be refreshingly modest and wise and shrewd in his judgment of people and social mores. He admits that in his very early films he just pointed the camera at where the action was, and that he learned a great deal from the exceptional cinematographers that he subsequently employed, e.g., Gordon Willis. It's well known that Allen is not particularly communicative with his actors, both in the initial interview and while directing, so it's revealing to hear him say that "90% of my films" is in the casting; that is, he gets the most suitable actor for the part and then simply lets the actor employ his / her craft on the set. The interviews reveal that Allen is well-read in literature, and it's no surprise that writing the script is his favorite part of filmmaking, and also worth noting that he can sometimes complete an entire script in a day.

I liked the structure of the interviews in that they started with his first film and then discussed each subsequent film in chronological sequence. The interviewer, Stig Bjorkman, is a Swedish filmmaker and critic who is obviously well-versed in Allen's films since many of his questions and observations reflected a detailed knowledge of various scenes and characters in Allen's films. It certainly helped the rapport between interviewer and interviewee that they both shared a love of Bergman films. Allen acknowledges that, by and large, the studios have given him a great deal of creative freedom with his films, but that European audiences may have sustained his autonomy in recent years.

As mentioned, Allen comes across in these interviews as a dedicated, hard-working and creative filmmaker, and although he resembles the stock character he so often portrayed in his films in certain ways, in many other ways he is different from that character, e.g., he was a reasonably athletic adolescent. Nonetheless, some of those "neurotic" features are much in evidence in these interviews. He's obsessed with death and has a morbid fear of "perishing" (perhaps it's why he's such a workaholic). On numerous occasions, he cites Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death" as a book that's shaped him both intellectually and emotionally. Of course, Woody always said that he "didn't want to achieve immortality through his work, but by not dying." He also reveals that he's not the hypochondriac he's portrayed but instead he's an "alarmist"; that is, he doesn't think he's always sick, but instead, when he does get sick, he thinks it's fatal!

One irritant in these interviews is that Bjorkman, a typical left-wing European intellectual, makes numerous anti-American observations to Allen, presumably trying to get him to follow up and agree. To his credit, Woody (a liberal), doesn't take the bait, and instead makes reasoned and balanced observations on American politics and society. If you enjoy Woody's films, these revealing interviews should be worth your while.
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on August 13, 2001
It is a relief to read a film book that refuses to degenerate in to the psycho-speculative ramblings of a [...] filmmaker. This book has the feel of a comfortable conversation with one of the most private 'celebrities' of this century. In an age where selling out is the great commodity, it is refreshing to hear from a man who has simply and steadily built an astonishing succession of low budget films. This book gives one intriguing glimpses into the 'Woody Allen' aesthetic, from his love of rain to his early days as a stand-up comic. If you're looking for dirt on his private life, don't bother, but if you're looking for an understanding of process and his distinctive viewpoint, then this is the book for you.
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on November 11, 2000
A thoroughly engrossing interview book which takes the reader film by film through Woody's career. If you're a fan of his work, it is essential reading. There are many fascinating responses and lots of interesting trivia which may surprise the most avid of fans. (For example, Woody's 1987 film "September" was originally shot in its entirely with a completely different cast. It was later recast, reshot and re-edited.)
If you really want to read an in depth and intelligent conservation about the entire process of filmmaking from inception to completion, check out this book. Woody is very frank, candid and let's you take a glance inside his restless and constantly creative mind.
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on May 18, 2000
I no longer have to dream what it would be like to have a conversation with Woody Allen. What an intellect. He makes many references to literature, movies, especially foreign films and artists that he loves. These works are now on my must see and read list.
I loved learning the behind the scenes details of his movies, but now I wish someone would write a book about his personal philosophies of life. I find his religious, socio-political ideas rivoting, provoking, and unique. The book provides a glimpse into the workings of the inner mind of a genius.
My only complaint is that it wasn't longer.
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on January 23, 2001
It was an interesting read. Interesting in that Woody seems to be answering Bjorkman's questions in a direct and frank manner, rather than resorting to humor, as his character did in, say, his movie Stardust Memories.
As the other reviews describe, Bjorkman takes Woody through each of films, and asks great questions. Even down to the subtleties of issues like why, since Annie Hall, he has used the same simple white-on-black titles. Other great topics include his use of music in film, and his writing and directing processes.
I always wondered these same type of things. So, for me, an interesting and wonderful read. A must for people who want to know what Woody's like this side of the camera.
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on April 7, 2002
Having read the vast array of literature on Woody Allen, I must conclude Stig Bjorkman's biography is a must-have for any self-professed Woody Allen fan. This book is a major page-turner offering great insight on Allen as a director/writer/actor, without disgressing into things (tidbits on his personal life, albeit juicy) that are really of little significance in the understanding and evaluation of this talented and prolific artist.
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I've read the first half-dozen chapters of WOODY ALLEN ON WOODY ALLEN and so far find it disappointing. Although chronologically divided by titles of Allen's films, each section offers little on the movie it's supposed to be about.

An example is the chapter on BANANAS (1971). Interviewer Stig Bjorkman steers the conversation away from the picture and toward Woody's politics (liberal Democrat), European directors (especially Swedish), the weather in Scandanavia, the general running time of Allen's movies (90 minutes or less), and editing in comedies. Finally, he says (paraphrased) "getting back to BANANAS..." mentions the courtroom scene and immediately tries pinning Woody down on why he doesn't write parts for blacks in his movies.

It's very unsatisfying for someone interested IN THE FILM.

My version of Bjorkman on SLEEPER:

SB: We come next to a comedy set in the future, SLEEPER.
WA: I was still writing funny on purpose, rapidfire just joke joke joke.

SB: In one scene, you're disguised as an automaton programmed to be a house servant.
WA: That silver paint was very uncomfortable.
SB: There's a dinner party that you're making a mess of.
WA: Typical klutzy farce I used to indulge in.
SB: Speaking of dinner, what's your opinion of smörgåsbord?

(Then there's a full page of vegetarian chat, and trading opinions on organic foods vs. non-organic.)

SB: Returning to SLEEPER, at one point you steal Hitler's nose.
WA: Yeah, silly idea...
SB: Was this written as a subconscious way of expressing dissatisfaction with your own nose?

(The balance of the chapter is ramblings on Hitler, rhinoplasty, deviated septums, allergies and "passing" as Christian.

Call it: "Everything But What You Wanted To Know About Woody Allen Movies, 'Cause It Doesn't Get Asked."
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