Blame the French. We don’t mean for Jerry Lewis, who actually was a comic genius, but for things like Pétain, structuralism, service compris menus, and now, Woody Allen. His new film, A Rainy Day in New York, is being shown in screenings in Paris and will open there in September, and so now we have to talk about Woody Allen. Again.
And nobody really wants to. His reputation for sexual misconduct—and worse—is too repellent. It’s unthinkable to defend a movie director who married his lover’s daughter, was accused of molesting his own daughter, and as early as 1979 signaled an unhealthy obsession with under-age girls in the once-revered and now troubling movie Manhattan.
Still, he’s no Jeffrey Epstein, who was convicted of a sex crime in Florida, even if a travesty of justice in the state let him off easy. Allen? Twisted, almost certainly. Talented filmmaker? Absolutely, though not always and not very much lately. But is he a proven sex offender who should be blacklisted in Hollywood? As yet, Allen has not been prosecuted for child abuse, let alone convicted of it. Mia Farrow’s accusation that he molested their daughter, Dylan, when she was seven was horrifying, but the charges, which he denied, were dismissed in 1993. Dylan, her brother Ronan Farrow, and their mother revived the accusations in the wake of the Hollywood #MeToo insurrection and drove many performers who once begged to work with Allen to denounce him, including two of the stars of his current movie, Rebecca Hall and Timothée Chalamet. Amazon, which paid about $68 million to buy the rights for four Allen films, pulled out of the deal.
So, this is where we wish we could say that regardless of what anyone thinks of Woody Allen personally, American audiences should be able to see his movies. They can choose not to, after all.
Even in these hyper-agitated times, when expressions like “due process” and “free speech” are political cluster bombs, artists are supposed to be judged by their work, not their personal lives. Otherwise, we are just reliving a #MeToo-driven version of the 1950s, when blacklisted filmmakers had to flee the country or work under a pseudonym. (Woody Allen, oddly enough, played a putz who put his name to the work of blacklisted writers in Martin Ritt’s 1976 movie, The Front.)
For all of these reasons, we’d really like to speak up for artistic freedom and our own inalienable right to go see one new, really bad Woody Allen movie every year.
But then Alexandra Marshall called from Paris to describe what she saw at a screening of A Rainy Day in New York.
And now we are speechless.
And that’s just for openers. For this and so much more, read on.