As we saw at this year's Academy Awards, Woody Allen takes his post as the quintessential New Yorker quite seriously. So, naturally, when people turn to him for an update on how the Big Apple is faring in the wake of Sept. 11, his response hardly lacks for passion.

"Right after 9/11 I went to Europe," says the director, "and they would ask me these sweeping questions like, 'Mr. Allen, is this the death of New York?' 'Is this the end of all humor?' or 'Can you ever show the New York skyline again?' It's absurd! It's like saying, 'Can you ever see a Humphrey Bogart film after he died of cancer?'

"It was a terrible tragedy, but the city is still a thriving, exciting, romantic city full of great stories," he continues. "New York has had tragedies, and every country has had famines, earthquakes and wars. These are facts of life that are terrible, but you metabolize them and that's it."

While Allen's love of his hometown will never be in question, his new showbiz satire Hollywood Ending (in theaters today) — which skewers Tinseltown, but good — makes us wonder how he feels about the City of Angels these days.

"[My relationship with Hollywood] isn't love-hate, it's love-contempt," he quips. "I've never had to suffer any of the indignities that one associates with the studio system. I've always been independent in New York by sheer good luck. But I have an affection for Hollywood because I've had so much pleasure from films that have come out of there. Not a whole lot of them, but a certain amount of them have been very meaningful to me."