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Allen woos Gallic press

PARIS – The City of Light hosted Woody Allen’s first-ever press conference here, in which the writer-director-actor acknowledging his debt to European fans, and to the French in particular.

Allen, it happens, speaks pretty good French. Although a top-notch translator was provided, he replied thoughtfully and eloquently to an hour’s worth of questions with only occasional coaching on verb tenses and vocabulary.

“For reasons that remain mysterious to me,” Allen commented Friday in French, “my films are appreciated more in Europe – and in France in particular – than they are back in the U.S. Could it be that the subtitles over here are incredibly brilliant?”

“Manhattan Murder Mystery” packed in local auds for months on end; over half of “Alice’s” total B.O. receipts were due to the French. Before it hit American screens, “Shadows and Fog” was released in Gaul during Orion’s woes because an Allen film is an automatic magnet and requires relatively little advertising to drum up business.

Allen’s local publicist has known the prolific comedian for nearly 30 years. Yet, her assistant remarked, “I don’t think Woody’s ever addressed us in French until this morning. It was quite a surprise.”

Since one of the Paris production numbers in “Everyone Says I Love You” involves a choreographed cluster of Groucho clones singing “Hooray for Captain Spaulding” translated into French, Allen was asked about his obvious love for the Marx Bros.

“I think the Marx Bros. are the greatest American film comedians of all time,” Allen explained. “Their humor is utterly surreal and at the same time, deeply profound. It was my privilege to know Groucho toward the end of his life. What’s more, and I’m quite serious about this, my own mother is a dead ringer for Groucho.”

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