Woody Allen was not the city’s first neurotic Jew, but he may as well have been. His searing take on urban angst, the individual’s struggle for meaning and identity, and nervous intellectualism have become enduring archetypes among New York’s many faces. And in Mr. Allen’s historic body of film work, New York City is as much a character as tweedy four-eyes himself.
Yes, the economics of filmmaking have driven Mr. Allen to Europe. But his sensibility remains that of a quintessential New Yorker. He is one of the few true living auteurs, with almost 50 films to his name, and is one of the most prolific comic writers of our time, with a seemingly endless portfolio of books, short stories, stage plays and stand-up. His unique brand of self-deprecating humor, his unparalleled ear for dialogue and his deft blending of comedy and tragedy have forever influenced the landscape of American comedy. To put it another way, Woody Allen isn’t so much a comedic voice as he is a brand of comedy.
With his unforgettable dynasty of muses, from Diane Keaton to Mia Farrow to Scarlett Johansson, Mr. Allen has given hope to lovable nebbishes the world over, having emerged as an unlikely style and sex icon (seriously). And for someone who gets accused of misogyny, Mr. Allen can also lay claim to having written some of the best roles for women in American film history. And yet in his movies, he almost always plays the Everyman, struggling to survive in the urban jungle, and his love-hate relationship with New York has become the definitive relationship between city and filmmaker in cinema history.