Woody Allen's autobiography Apropos of Nothing came under the spotlight long before it hit the stands. Its original publisher, Hachette, cancelled it a month before publication following the threat from Allen’s son, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ronan Farrow, to cut ties with the company if it went ahead with the memoir.
The widely reported event attracted attention from authors and writers across the spectrum, many of them supported Allen’s right to be published even though they did not agree with him. Irrespective, the autobiography of one of the most influential filmmakers of all times reads like three different books that capture Allen in his childhood, his success and failures as a storyteller and his personal life, which the filmmaker never discussed up until now.
Allen speaks a lot about his early childhood, he has a fantastic memory or a really fertile imagination. He gives an insight into the early days where he emerged as a well-known comic who managed to get a fair amount of freedom to transform into a film writer. Although he rarely shies from speaking on the controversial issues, he never really clarifies much. One of the things that describe Woody Allen, the filmmaker, is his propensity to not only play the same character over and over again but also get other actors across different generations to play him.
Allen is one of the most prolific filmmakers. He has directed over 60 films in the last five decades. Lately, the 84-year-old filmmaker had to pick younger male stars as the lead. But when it comes to his autobiography, Allen gets a chance to get the best actor to play the ‘Woody Allen’ character in himself. This is the reason why you find the writing razor-sharp with the one-liners never missing a beat, because it’s Allen, the actor, put on display by Allen, the writer. Reading Apropos of Nothing, in many ways, is like watching a great Woody Allen film.
You can see it play in front of your eyes and this is what makes a significant part of the book a fantastic experience. Yet it’s all tainted too due to the bizarreness of Allen’s reality. You know this isn’t a film and events such as Allen’s attraction to much-younger women, his use of undignified endearments while talking about women in his life, his falling in love and later marrying his then partner’s adoptive daughter and the sexual-abuse allegations, refuse to leave your mind.
In the wake of the #MeToo movement, Woody Allen’s career came to a grinding halt. Although the allegations and insinuations were there since the 1990s, Allen went on to direct over 30 films, some of them fetched their actors Oscars as well.
In early 2019, things changed, perhaps forever, when Amazon refused to honour its deal with Allen, and also cancelled the release of his last film, A Rainy Day in New York. There is little doubt that Allen might never make a film that would enjoy wide release ever again and Allen, too, suggests that he is aware.
This is why he writes towards the end that he doesn’t believe in "a hereafter" and "can’t see any practical difference if people remember me as a film director or a pedophile or at all". Yet Allen cares. He penned a tome where he presents his case. In the end, Apropos of Nothing is like a much-seen Woody Allen film.
It's funny at times, reminiscent of something that was once unique, even great, replete with one-liners—"All that I ask is my ashes be scattered close to a pharmacy"—that can be used in different scenarios to great effect. It’s also the kind of film that you tend to forget even though you have seen it hundreds of times.