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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 December 2005, 08:40 GMT
Allen hits 70 with neuroses intact
By Neil Smith
BBC News entertainment reporter

After a prolonged period of domestic and professional upheaval, Woody Allen turns 70 this week with his reputation restored and his neuroses intact.

Woody Allen
Allen's next film, Scoop, was also shot in London
Although he is not known for being particularly celebratory, his birthday comes at what could be seen as a happy time for him.

His latest film was showered with critical acclaim and his jazz tours have proved a roaring success.

But the neurotic self-absorption on which he once based his stand-up comedy has now become an air of melancholic disquiet.

The irony is that Allen's reputation has rarely been more secure, with critics heralding the London-set Match Point as a return to form after years of disappointments.

At a screening of the film held earlier this week in New York, the director suggested its central conceit - that our lives are largely governed by luck and chance - applied equally to his prodigious output.

"Some come out good and some don't come out good - it's up in the air," he told reporters.


"This picture I got lucky; next picture I could not get lucky. There is nothing you can do to make it happen."

In an interview in this month's Total Film magazine, Allen sounds a similarly mordant note.

Scarlet Johansson in Match Point
Scarlet Johansson plays the lead role in Match Point
"I really do feel that life is divided between the horrible and the miserable," he said, echoing a line spoken by the character he played in one of his biggest hits, 1977's Annie Hall.

"I've always seen the world through a very dark prism."

If the world looks grim now, one can only imagine how bleak it must have seemed in the early 1990s.

It was then that Mia Farrow, his partner of 12 years and star of 13 of his movies, discovered he was having an affair with her adopted daughter Soon-Yi.

A bitter and acrimonious custody battle ensued, with Allen accused by Farrow of sexually abusing his adopted daughter Dylan. He was cleared of the allegation.

The story was broadcast around the globe, putting every aspect of his private life up for scrutiny.


Although his films remained popular abroad, particularly in France, the director found it increasingly hard to find financing and distribution.

Further discord came in 2001 when Allen accused long-time business partner Jean Doumanian of withholding profits from eight of the films they had made together.

They settled out of court the following year.

Antz poster
Allen voiced the lead character in the animated film Antz
Tellingly, however, A-list actors remained eager to be in his movies, often taking drastic salary cuts in order to work with him.

Allen's vocal contribution to the computer-animated feature Antz cannily introduced his persona to a whole new and younger audience.

And a surprise appearance at the 2002 Academy Awards - an event he traditionally shuns - saw him greeted and feted like a returning hero.

Despite the fact he has been vocal in his loathing of mainstream studio product, his latest film is now being touted in Hollywood as a potential Oscar contender.

Proof perhaps that, for all his protestations and statements to the contrary, the now septuagenarian Allen has finally been embraced by the very industry he appeared to reject.

Just don't expect him to be happy about it.


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