Woody pic

Jason Solomons photobombing a Woody Allen press conference!

Film critic and fan Jason Solomons, tells Brigit Grant about a perfect Chanukah pressies for Allen fans. 

At a gift-giving time of the year it is so much easier if the recipients have a hobby or an interest. Cooks and golfers are a breeze, as it’s never a struggle to find a whisk or novelty balls and if you happen to be more than a tad interested in Woody Allen, there’s a range of presents to fill the eight nights. And there’s a reason for this. The director turns 80 on 1 December and, to mark the occasion, JW3 is throwing him a birthday party hosted by film critic Jason Solomons.

Sadly, Woody won’t be there – “he told me he hopes to sleep through his birthday,” informs Jason, but that won’t stop his fans from raising a glass as they take a whistle-stop tour of his favourite films. It’s a tall order, as Woody has made more than 50 movies since 1965 and just wrapped on his 2016 production, but few know them better than Jason, who has just written Woody Allen: Film by Film (published by Carlton Books), which warrants first place on the Chanukah wish list.

Woody Allen in Sleeper (1973)

Woody Allen in Sleeper (1973)

Woody fans will probably buy a coffee table to display this glossy tome, which is filled with facts, observations and images of the auteur acting and directing. Good as it is, the man himself is unlikely to see it.

“He doesn’t read anything about himself as he says people always get everything wrong,” says Jason who interviewed Woody in Cannes for the book. “Even when they are really nice about him and write that he’s ‘wonderful,’ he still thinks they are wrong.”

Woody with Penelope Cruz on Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody with Penelope Cruz on Vicky Cristina Barcelona

For Jason, Allen has always been “wonderful” and, although he acknowledges that some films are better than others, his head was turned forever by Annie Hall in 1977. “I was only 12, but I fell in love with Annie, the kooky shiksa and this shaped my taste in women. I was also emboldened by the fact that Woody’s Jewishness made him attractive to the opposite sex.” Although he was ready to move to New York, Jason had to make do with watching Allen’s movies and dashing across the road from his father’s hair salon (Leonard and Alan in Belsize Park) to see them at the Screen on the Hill.

Ask Jason to pick a personal favourite and he struggles, which is the true mark of a Woodyphile. The Purple Rose Of Cairo is mentioned, Husbands and Wives and Radio Days, but then he is on to Zelig, Hannah And Her Sisters and Blue Jasmine. As all of the films up to Irrational Man (2015) are in the book, choice was not called for and Jason was able to notice other things, such as the number of times Allen turns into a rabbi on screen. “I also began to think that the reason for his prolific film-making, which keeps him so busy, is an escape from reality,” adds Jason, who will be wishing his hero the best on his birthday – even if he is asleep.



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