The other day, a couple of friends invited me to join them to see "Blue Jasmine" at the charming second-run movie theater in our town. The movie had gotten excellent reviews, I really wanted to catch up with the girls, and I was way overdue for a night out. Still, I couldn't bring myself to go.
You see, I have a Woody Allen problem. I know I'm not alone.
"Don't think of it as a Woody Allen movie," my friend urged. "Think of it as a Cate Blanchett movie."
That didn't help. She chose to work with him, and to laud him at the 2014 Golden Globes. Now Scarlett Johansson has slipped in my esteem by calling the little girl (now woman) who maintains Allen molested her "irresponsible." (One thinks wistfully of the old studio days when movie stars spoke to the press only from carefully crafted scripts.)
See, here's my problem: I'm, like, 99% sure that "Dylan Farrow" is telling the absolute truth.
Some people blame Mia Farrow for the fact that this scandal cannot die. They say she's manipulating the media coverage, that she's still carrying on a bitter vendetta against her former lover because he betrayed her with... her daughter. (Like for Christ's sake, that wasn't bad enough?) Don't think I don't think rather poorly of Ms. Farrow, too, BTW, although not for the reasons much of Hollywood does. My beef with Mia Farrow is that she didn't do more to protect her daughter, soon enough.
I've had arguments with my old friend Max about this. He claims that artists (say, Courtney Love) operate on a different moral plane. They are, by virtue of their talent, somehow "above the law," which only applies to mediocre schlubs like you or me. The art must be judged apart from the artist who created it.
You can argue this with me til the sun goes down, I don't disagree in theory, but it doesn't change my visceral unease and distaste for both the man and his movies. I tried to get past this by watching "Midnight in Paris" last year, but I could never let my guard down enough to immerse myself in the cinematic experience.
I have a similar problem with Roman Polanski, for similar reasons. I watched "Carnage" recently on DVD just because, you know, I'll watch anything Christoph Waltz is in (even when it's in German without subtitles). Yeah, yeah, I know Polanski's victim is now a middle aged matron who forgives him, and the fact that he (in notable contrast to Allen) has admitted his guilt and expressed remorse should mitigate his sentence, but frankly, the only way he could fully redeem himself in my harsh, judgmental eyes is if he returned to the U.S., prepared to face his sentence, which is damned unlikely for a lot of reasons, not least of which is his age.
Last week PBS was hosting one of those "golden oldies" fundraising specials, and who do we see? Michelle Phillips (Mamas and the Papas), burbling on about what a songwriting genius her late former husband John Phillips was. And he was. Unfortunately, he also had a longstanding incestuous relationship with his very vulnerable, very drug-addicted daughter Mackenzie, which she described a few years ago in a book. I watched the Oprah Winfrey interview, and you know what? I am 99% certain she was telling the absolute truth too. And sure, learning that Phillips betrayed and exploited his own daughter in the worst way doesn't mean he didn't make some great music, but it mightily diminishes the pleasure I can now take in listening to that music. And the fact that Michelle Phillips has publicly renounced her stepdaughter as a delusional liar taints her too.
Imagine how horrifying it would be to learn that your ex-husband, someone whom you once loved and had a child with, was, in fact, capable of such evil -- especially when your own legacy is irrevocably tied to his. Still, I have this... this problem with any woman who chooses loyalty to a man over loyalty to a child (even a grown child, and one who is not biologically her own).
I'm also aware that men get falsely accused of child abuse. A lot. And if I believed in God, I would believe there was a special circle in Hell reserved for just such false accusers. It's just that in the above mentioned particular cases, I happen to believe the victims.
It doesn't help those victims that I no longer enjoy the art their perpetrators created, of course. It doesn't help me either. I used to be a huge fan of Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and John Phillips, before their own actions robbed me (and many others) of the capacity to admire their work.