HOLLYWOOD: Woody Allen last won an Oscar 25 years ago, so his Academy Award for best original screenplay on Sunday marks the end of one of the longest and most lamented career slumps in cinema history.
For at least two decades, fans of Allen's neurosis-filled films would mull exactly when he lost that touch, while others simply assumed the classic period of “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan” was firmly in the past.
Signs of a creative revival, even as he turned 70, came a few years ago with 2006's “Match Point,” nominated for an Oscar. Even stronger was “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” in 2008, which won a best supporting actress prize for Penelope Cruz.
Then came last year's “Midnight in Paris,” which finally hit the sweet spot again, securing massive box office success combined with the critical acclaim which had so long alluded America's most anxiety-ridden filmmaker.
Though the film did not bring Allen a golden statuette for directing, he triumphed for his writing for “Midnight,” a romantic fantasy about an Allen-esque Hollywood screenwriter who falls in love with Paris.
The main character, played by Owen Wilson, also discovers a secret way of getting in touch with its storied cultural past and larger-than-life figures including Pablo Picasso, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.
Best known for his depiction of deeply neurotic characters trapped in existential crisis, Allen was considered a comic genius by many and envied by fellow filmmakers for the freedom the movie studios granted him.
Born Allen Konigsberg on December 1, 1935, to a family of second generation Jewish immigrants in New York, Allen said he spent much of his Brooklyn childhood alone in his room, practicing magic tricks or playing the clarinet.
He was reportedly hired while only a teenager to write one-liners for well-known comedians of the day. He studied film at New York University but was kicked out before going on to work as a stand-up comedian.
He wrote for television in the late 1950s and early 1960s before being commissioned to write the screenplay for the 1965 movie “What's New Pussycat.”He made his directorial debut with “What's Up, Tiger Lily?” a year later.
He had a turbulent personal life, mixing relationships on and off screen.
It was alongside one-time partner Diane Keaton that he made some of his most memorable movies, including romantic comedy “Annie Hall,” for which he won a best directing Oscar, and “Manhattan”.
But it was Mia Farrow, with whom Allen had a 12-year relationship, that he most often cast.
She appeared in 13 of his movies, including “Hannah and Her Sisters” -- one of his greatest commercial successes and his last Oscar-winning effort, also for screenplay writing -- and “Husbands and Wives”.
Their relationship collapsed in 1992 when Farrow discovered Allen had a stash of nude photographs of Soon-Yi, the Korean girl she had adopted during a previous marriage to pianist Andre Previn. Soon-Yi was 21 at the time. Allen and Soon-Yi wed in 1997, and are still together. They have two children.
His dealings with the mainstream US movie industry were similarly fraught.
Despite once describing his relationship with Hollywood not as love-hate, but love-contempt, he still managed to pick up three Oscars and 20 other nominations for writing, directing and acting before his win on Sunday.
And despite receiving more writing nods than any other screenwriter in Oscar history, he regularly accused Hollywood of pandering to the lowest common denominator and being driven by purely commercial concerns.
He only once appeared at the Oscars ceremony, when in 2002 he made an unexpected appearance at the gala awards to plead for filmmakers to continue making films in New York after the September 11 attacks just months before.
He was not in attendance at Sunday's festivities.
His mostly small-budget films often lost money, with notable exceptions.
“Annie Hall” in 1977 and “Manhattan” two years later both took almost $40 million at the US box office, while “Match Point,” in which Allen unusually did not appear, took $85 million worldwide.
“Midnight in Paris” has taken some $150 million worldwide, including more than $55 million in the United States.