If you read my site semi-regularly, you know that I’m a big Woody Allen fan. I’ve been a die-hard fan of for most of my life. My infatuation started in high school and then, as a film minor in college, I watched all his movies and analyzed them (I have the papers to prove it). I was a walking Woody Allen encyclopedia and have been going to his movies the night they premiere (ask my husband as he’s typically my companion). for years. I even slipped my resumé under the door of his production office after arriving in NYC a few years later. I’ve been to see him play the clarinet at the Cafe Carlyle where he plays regularly in NYC.
I wrote about my passion over at BlogHer a few months ago, but I also begged the question of respecting a director who had seemingly fallen in the public arena. It was called Can You Know About Woody Allen’s Scandals and Still Enjoy His Films? I spoke about my love for his films which has driven me to separate his life and art, particularly after coming to terms with the very serious accusations that Vanity Fair shed more light on for me in its recent coverage of Mia Farrow and her family. Twenty years ago, when the scandal hit, I was single, living in NYC and really didn’t understand what she went through.
Now I’m a mom and yes, I was as shocked as everyone else reading it and re-reading the allegations that seem extremely true and about the young girl they most impacted. I have never said that I condone his behavior and I am not saying that now. But I did say that I am able to separate his life from his art and have a tremendous amount of creative respect for the man.
The response to my article was a bit overwhelming. It confirmed the negativity that the majority of the public feels towards the director and that clearly his paying audience is small, at least in the United States where the story may be most widely known.
It became very transparent to me that Allen had alienated a lot of his audience after the accusations broke and that his marriage to his step-daughter certainly didn’t help matters with the public perception. Yet Allen has been able to make a film a year ever since the scandal erupted. He has studios that continue to back his work and he has continued to cast incredible actors, many of whom have won Academy and Golden Globe Awards, much like Cate Blanchett last night.
But it was last night that the accusations came into full force and back not the public’s mindshare, when Allen was honored by the Globes with the Cecil B. de Mille Award. At first glance, you’d wonder why he didn’t appear to pick up the award himself. But if you stop to think twice, it’s obvious why he didn’t attend, even though he is notorious for not attending award ceremonies. I don’t think he even picked up his Oscar for Annie Hall. But why would he come break open a can of worms now by appearing in front of millions?
What was harder to fathom this time was the tweets by the members of his family who have clearly been severely impacted by the allegations, like his biological son, Ronan Farrow.
Well, it was really his mom, Mia Farrow, who tuned the show out first but got all of Twitter talking instantly about the scandal once again and reminded us of what he did to her family.
The Farrows’ tweets put the scandal in perspective. I’m not going to go in detail about their histories with the Director. The story is painful enough and I can’t even begin to imagine what they’ve been through. While Diane Keaton was busy saluting the great film director, seemingly trying to change the minds of everyone watching, the Farrows were clearly being reminded of the scandal once again…a painful time in their lives I’m sure they try desperately to forget and can’t.
But social media took over, and after the Farrows’ tweets went viral, a bigger conversation started once again about Woody Allen’s merits versus his personal life.
Matt Zoler Seitz wrote this in Vulture and it really made me stop to think:
However, even amidst Twitter’s sea of trivialities, news and posturing, the Farrows’ tweets were powerful. These virtual slaps were different from a “real” disruptive act – a loud “boo” shouted out while others are applauding, or a drink tossed in somebody’s face at a reception – and yet just as powerful, because while they allowed the event itself to proceed undisturbed, they merged with our recollection of it after the fact, and will stay online for as long as “online” remains a thing. We don’t have to argue about what was said in that auditorium or whether it was appropriate to say it at that moment, because the Farrows weren’t there. They were watching from the same collective living room in which people live-Tweet their color commentary about people on TV — the same hivemind-space where people bitch about fumbled passes and laugh at a sitcom leading lady’s new hairdo and pass around links to Breaking Badtumblrs.
To them, Woody Allen is someone who hurt them. He hurt her child, his sister. She was with Allen for 12 years, raising his children to find him one day leave him for their step-daughter. Their reaction on Twitter was like me or you or Joe Shmo tweeting in pain and anger, of course omitting the fact that they had to know their tweets would immediately go viral and create news stories the next day.
For a fan like me, of course it makes me think about the reality of the situation and it makes me so sad that someone I have admired my whole life could have caused so much damage to so many good people.
But there’s Annie Hall, Manhattan, Sleeper, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters.….the list goes on. To me, he’s a genius and he has brought so much joy into my life.
Seitz goes on to finish his article saying:
The Farrows’ tweets about Woody Allen don’t fall into that predictable call-and-response pattern. They come from a more grievously wounded place. They don’t answer the bigger question of whether an artist’s private life should affect our opinion of their work, and they were never meant to. They were meant to remind us that as far as they’re concerned, Woody Allen is the guy who couldn’t be left alone with Dylan.
So, the question remains: Can You Know About Woody Allen’s Scandals and Still Enjoy His Films? The answer for me is still yes. Because I need to preserve these great films which have created important memories and have provided so much meaning to my own life. Because I want to honor a film director I have been chasing all over Manhattan. Because giving up his films would create too much of a hole.
Because at the end of the day, these films are his work of art. Even if he had stopped making films back in 1992 when the story unfolded, he would still have this rich history of film behind him that would deserve lifetime achievement awards to this day. One could not say that he has created too many masterpieces like Annie Hall and Manhattan since.
But like Martin Scorcese, who won the award before him, he is a little guy with glasses who makes great films.