Woody Allen is a man of many contradictions and mixed confidences—a timeless wonder. He's one of those people that has lived more than you or I ever will. A man who has made a film a year for the last 30-plus years. In other words: the perfect subject for a book.
Eric Lax spent the last three decades interviewing Allen on various movie sets and in editing rooms, and Conversations with Woody Allen is the thorough result. The book darts from one decade to the next in a mish mash of interviews, organized under loose headers like "Editing" and "Writing." With another subject this might be confusing, but not so with Allen, whose consistent persona and appearance just goes to illustrate the timelessness of the man and his films. Lax says in an interview, "[Your films are] not of a time." And Allen answers, "I'm not of a time."
A perfectionist to the extreme, Allen is also one of the self-proclaimed laziest filmmakers around, caring more about writing, editing, and scoring than directing, his least favorite aspect of filmmaking. Lax persistently drills him about his recollections of past films, but Allen is an elusive interviewee. Allen almost willfully cannot remember much about his films, saying that they were all varying disappointments to him and once they were in the can they became boring, inanimate things.
Allen will only concede one artistic success on his part: 2005's Match Point, in which Allen finally realized his true dream of creating a "serious" film. A reoccurring theme in Conversations is Allen's confidence in his ability to be funny, offset by his desire to follow in the footsteps of Ingmar Bergman and make dramas. True enough, Allen is a very funny man, and it's true that his films can be hit or miss. But that's one thing I've always loved about Allen: the wealth and depth of his "honorable failures," like the misunderstood and underrated Deconstructing Harry.
My only complaint about the book is a minor one, easily forgivable for all the enjoyment it provided. Because the interviews from all three decades are mixed up willy-nilly style in the book, it became repetitive. But I'll chalk that up to poor organization on Lax's part, not to Allen himself.