I want to start by saying that I am a father and have a daughter; I find the accusations against legendary film director Woody Allen by his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow quite disturbing. In Ms. Farrow’s letter published in The New York Times, the young woman goes into gruesome details about the alleged abuse. Most everyone will find the letter’s contents upsetting; however, we must also state that Mr. Allen has long denied the claims of this abuse, and he has never been charged in regards to this situation.
You can read a good deal more about the case’s details and why the prosecutors in Connecticut did not bring charges against Mr. Allen, but there remains the element of doubt, yet we also must recognize that we need to use “alleged” here because nothing has been proven.
Which gets us to the matter of art and the artist. As long as I can remember, there has been a debate about whether we should judge a work of art by the artist who created it. For example, if William Shakespeare had been a convicted murderer, would that detract from his body of work? Should it matter to us at all what happens in an artist’s personal life? Does not the work in and of itself exist and therefore should please or displease us based on its own merits?
This reminds me of the movie star Rock Hudson. My mother loved Rock and was a great fan. She enjoyed all his movies, and when he started appearing on the TV series Dynasty she was thrilled, though she noted he looked “very thin and like he is not well.” We know now that Mr. Hudson had the AIDS virus, which he died from in 1985. When stories were published afterwards, it was claimed that he was gay and the star machine that operated in Hollywood conspired to keep that information from the public. I will never forget that Mom said, “I don’t care what they say; I still love his movies.”
I bring up this case because Mom was not judging Rock by anything he did behind closed doors. All that was important to her was the work Rock did, and that endured for her even after she learned the truth about him. In her mind the “work” mattered much more than the real life the actor lived when not on screen.
In Mr. Allen’s case, what has caused all this to surface again since the event of alleged molestation occurred over 20 years ago? The answer is Mr. Allen’s lifetime achievement honor at this year’s Golden Globes, and there is also the matter of Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins, two actresses in his latest film Blue Jasmine, being nominated for an Academy Awards in the Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress categories and Mr. Allen for Best Screenplay. Since Mr. Allen is in the news once again, does that make him fair game for renewed accusations, and you may ask why hasn’t this happened sooner?
Mr. Allen has worked steadily since he and Mia Farrow broke up in 1992 due to her discovery of a romantic relationship with her adopted daughter Soon Yi Previn, who was 19 at the time. Shortly after this the accusations about Allen’s abuse of Dylan surfaced. We could question why Ms. Farrow has waited until now or why her mother did not press the issue continuously over the years. Of course, child abuse is such a horrendous matter, and also something a family may choose to keep private in respect to the child. We could imagine that Ms. Farrow (now 27 and married) found the courage to speak out when she saw Mr. Allen receiving accolades, and I respect her right to express herself and her outrage.
Still, I recently saw Blue Jasmine and it is an amazing film, mostly because of the performances by its nominated stars. Blanchett is so transparent, so totally believable in the role of a lifetime. Playing the disgraced wife of a former big Wall Street Bernie Madoff type (Alec Baldwin), Ms. Blanchett allows every emotion to register on screen as she slowly comes to grips with her dismantled former life of wealth and privilege. Moving in with her down and out sister (the equally amazing Hawkins) in San Francisco, she tries to reconstruct her life with less than satisfactory results.