Woody Allen has long been an enigma, obscured by a facade no less carefully constructed than his films. How fine is the autobiographical line between the film character and the reality? How far has Allen retrospectively rewritten his life? To answer these questions, John Baxter examines the prolific artistic career of one of the few people to have successfully played all three roles of writer, director and star.
Allen's films are celebrated for their wit and their ironic characterisations of Manhattan types, together with their neuroses. The best of them - 'Annie Hall', 'Manhattan', 'Crimes And Misdemeanors', 'Bullets Over Broadway' - rank among the finest of all screen comedies. Even his well-publicised rift with his long-term partner Mia Farrow and his subsequent affair with (and marriage to) her adopted daughter Soon-Yi apparently failed to dent the calibre of his film-making or the loyalty of his audience.
John Baxter, whose previous books include acclaimed biographies of Ken Russell, Fellini, Bunuel, Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick, shrewdly deconstructs Woody, revealing his attitudes to Jewishness, sexuality and mortality, his obsessions, his cinematic and writing influences, his manipulation of celebrity and, above all, his role as court jester of the Manhattan intellectual elite.