Apropos of Nothing


Woody Allen is not who I thought he was. In his new memoir Apropos of Nothing, the eighty something filmmaker candidly discusses everything in his long career, from winning four Oscar’s for the 1977 masterpiece Annie Hall to the molestation charges that have dogged him over recent years. He repeatedly writes that he is neither a genius or an auteur, simply lucky.

That’s another misconception about me, other than I’m an intellectual; people think because I’m on the smaller side and I wear those glasses, I couldn’t have been much of an athlete. But they’re wrong. I was track medal fast, a very fine baseball player with fantasies of pursuing that as a career, which only faded when I was suddenly hired as a gag writer.

I have been a fan of Allen’s since I was a teenager. His elegant comedies about New York and the Jewish intelligentsia appealed to my taste in the exotic. Even though his films have never made much money, he is regarded as one of the leading cinematic artists of New Hollywood, along with Spielberg, Scorsese, Coppola and Friedkin.

I own no watches, carry no umbrella, own no cameras or tape recorders, and to this day I need my wife to adjust the TV set. I own no computer, never have gone near a word processor, have never have changed a fuse, emailed anyone, or washed a dish. I’m one of those addled seniors who needs to have all the buttons on the TV rendered unusable by having them taped over so I can only operate the on-off and volume buttons.

A lifelong atheist, Allen was a high school dropout, which has seemingly clouded his own self image. He endlessly writes that he is not an intellectual, and he never watches his own films after he’s finished them.

The teachers were greatly amused by what I wrote. They passed my writing around, whispering to each other and pointing at me. This odd flair has stayed with me my whole life, and knowing how to use references has grown into a useful tool. End of digression, and if I haven’t lost you totally I’ll get back to the main theme of the book; man’s search for god in a pointless, violent universe.

The main reason why people would want to read Apropos of Nothing must surely be for Woody Allen’s take on the sex abuse charges that have seen #MeToo activists angle to have Allen’s memoir banned from Amazon. Without going into great detail, since I thoroughly enjoyed the book and wholeheartedly recommend it, I am happy at the explanation the author gives, and am positive he is innocent of the charges. However, for the curious minded out there, there is plenty of juicy gossip about Mia Farrow and her decidedly bizarre approach to child rearing.

Another thing that the average fan of Allen’s would expect from his memoir is details on his psychotherapy treatment, a fascination that has bled into his cinematic oeuvre.

So I’ve had many years of treatment and my conclusion is, yes, it has helped me, but not as much as I’d hoped and not in the way I’d imagined. I made zero progress on the deep issues; fears and conflicts and weaknesses I had at seventeen and twenty, I still have. The few areas where the problems are not so embedded, where one needs a little help, a push, maybe I got some relief.

Apropos of Nothing is a sad and funny book. Allen can’t seem to shake his existential world view, and all the wise cracks in the narrative can’t seem to shake my conclusion that Allen is a deeply unhappy man, unable to accept the complimentary viewpoint that he is a totally unique filmmaker who has made numerous successful classics.