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July 24, 1987 - Image 28

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-07-24

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Continued from preceding page

reasonable degree. I think one would be
more isolated in California — a cliche, I
know, but I think it's true. Here, in the
course of a week, I see a lot of different peo-
ple in different professions, whereas in
California, I think you tend to be isolated.
The community tends to revolve around
film making and television.
"I'm certainly not a partygoer at all. I
work 90 percent of the time. But I'm not
a recluse. People think because I don't
want to get photographed by paparazzi all
the time — I don't even mind that, if they
don't follow me down the street for fifteen
minutes, if they just take their pictures and
go — that I'm a recluse. This is a thing
that's been built up over the years for some
reason, but it just isn't so. I go to Madison
Square Garden for basketball games. I eat
out every single night. I'm always at the
opera or at shows."
Now, all this stuff about Woody's Rolls-
Royce, Woody's relationship with Mia,
Woody's paparazzi problems, Woody's
table at Elaine's — this is the kind of
celebrity slop that interests mainly
magazine editors. The real question is _
whether Allen is so professionally isolated,
so irretrievably cocoon-ensconced, that it
skews his world view and warps his work,
threatening it with irrelevancy, risking
anachronism. Allen says that while he
doesn't read much criticism of his films, he
does send the occasional favorable critic a
handwritten note on yellow legal paper
because "Nobody likes to write in a
vacuum." And yet he sometimes seems to
be operating in one himself. Certainly
Radio Days was a vacuum-packed movie
if there ever was one. An indignant grouch
attending a screening of the film in
Manhattan scoffed when it was over, "If
he can get nostalgic over stuff like that, it's
no wonder he's living with a ahiksa."
His working relationship with Orion Pic-
tures, which has been releasing his films
since about the time United Artists fell
apart, is "very nice," Allen says, and
Rollins and Joffe, with him since the stand-
up days, are "very nice" too. "There is never
an argument, ever," he says, not even when
he announces that his next film will not
star him, that he'll stay behind the camera.
"I have an absolutely wonderful working
situation. I have no friction whatsoever."
But is "no friction whatsoever"
necessarily a "wonderful working situa-
tion"? Doesn't the creative process,
especially in a collaborative medium like
film, require some friction? Woody stares
through his glasses in mute apoplexy at
such a thought. "This I never heard. I
don't think so. 'Iblstoy sat home, and
Flaubert, and they wrote their thing. I
don't think there has to be friction at all.
I think it's a debilitating factor. I think
we'd have better films if directors con-
trolled them completely."
From Take the Money (1969) on, Allen
has enjoyed a phenomenal amount of con-
trol over his films (Allen and Clint
Eastwood are probably our two most
smoothly functioning auteurs). Allen has
been shielded from the kinds of in-
terference and commercial pressure that
plague most other filmmakers, at least in

this country. Safeguards are contractual-
ly spelled out, and the list keeps getting
longer. Woody's films no longer play in
South Africa, for instance, according to a
clause he had added last year (not an emp-
ty gesture, since Allen's films do better
abroad, he says, than they do in the U.S.).
The home-video version of Manhattan had
to be released in the so-called letter-box for-
mat, with top and bottom masked and the
entire frame visible in the middle of the
screen, so as to preserve the wide-screen
compositions of cinematographer Gordon
Willis. After the French retitled Sleeper as
Woody and the Robots, and Annie Hall
was rechristened by the Germans The Ci-
ty Neurotic for release in those countries,
Allen got a clause inserted preventing
foreign title changes, too.
Filmmakers in Hollywood are very
jealous of such luxuries, and Allen has en-
joyed them from the beginning.
"I think I was lucky in that I did com-
edy exclusively when I started, and I have
this theory that the studios always think
there's some mystery to that," he says.
"They think, 'Leave Mel Brooks alone; he

"I work 90 percent of the time.
But I'm not a recluse. People
think because I don't want to
get photographed by
paparazzi all the time — that
I'm a recluse."

knows what he's doing.' I got off on that
foot with them and they've always left me
alone. That's the way it's been on every
film. I reshoot tons of material; I cast who
I want; the films I work on are a complete
mystery to the company that's paying for
They left him alone even when his films
started laying eggs, as did Stardust
Memories, Broadway Danny Rose, and
The Purple Rose of Cairo — everything, he
says, between Manhattan and Hannah ex-
cept Zelig. Since they don't cost all that
much, however, his films can't lose all that
much; at $15 million, Radio Days is the
most expensive film Allen ever made. He
stays within relatively narrow parameters,
part of the way he protects himself, and is
known for bringing films in on time and on
Like his public, Allen's backers would
prefer him to make comedies in which he
stars. When he decides to shoot something
in which he won't appear, he says, he agrees
with the boys in the front office to extend
their deal by one picture and to make that
picture a Woody Allen comedy starring
Woody Allen. Indeed, the film he's work-
ing on now, Allen says, will be "a real
serious drama that I'm not in, and it all
takes place in a single house." (Gee, we can
hardly wait. What's it called, Interiors II:
The Paralysis Continues?)
Allen does not make the serious films
just to be bratty or to ensure the occa-
sional worthy flop. "I would like to make

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