On Woody Allen, Roman Polanski And Separating The Artist From The Art

3 Feb


Yeah. I read Dylan Farrow’s letter too. That’s some very unsettling, disturbing stuff to read. And, if it’s true, that makes Woody Allen a terrible person.

Thing is, I don’t think it’s true.

But let’s backtrack a little to look at this sensitive topic in more general terms and let me ask that age old question: Can you separate the artist from the art? I personally think you never really can. And it’s difficult to support the work of an artist you know to be awful.

But, really, what it is, is a matter of degrees… And of choice.

I won’t bring people like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise or Sean Connery into this. These men have said some stupid things and made some pretty damning public declarations. Evidence points to the very real possibility that they are assholes or, at the very least, people who might be unpleasant to be around after drinks at a party. But whatever. They’re hardly criminals, and there’s no reason why you can’t just sit down and enjoy one of their many entertaining films.

That’s why the title of this piece names Allen and Polanski… And I did leave out one other person – and that’s OJ.

So, let’s talk first about degrees and choice.

I firmly believe OJ Simpson is a cold-blooded, sadistic, psychopathic murderer. I certainly didn’t want to believe that in 1994, when the whole shebang came to pass. It was hard for me to accept that this genial man, this football hero, whose work I had enjoyed in movies and TV shows, could be such a horrible human being. But there it was… We all saw that trial. They broadcast it live. The evidence was incredibly damning and absolute. So, I believe without a doubt that this man brutally murdered his ex wife and her lover – and I know he got away with it. He is in prison now, for stealing trinkets, and he deserves to stay there for whatever sentence he was given and more.


And I have a hard time watching his films now, knowing that. I have a hard time finding him funny or sympathizing with the character he’s playing. It’s difficult because I know in my bones he did this horrible thing and is not in any way a good person.

Now, what about Polanski?

That’s a bit of a grey area.

Because I know he did what he did. He’s never denied it. In 1977, when he was 43 years old, he had sex with a 13-year-old girl. And that definitely falls outside of what I consider to be morally and ethically correct. Oh, there are ways you can spin it, sure. And all signs point to the fact that this was not the work of a serial sexual predator; but rather an extremely poor error in judgment combined with bad choices. But this does not make Roman Polanski a monster. He’s a human being who made a mistake.


Any way you slice it, though, what he did was wrong. And I know that.

But I also know a couple of other things. I know the entire rigmarole was basically inflated into a media circus in 1977; and that probably had a much more damaging effect on the victim than the fact she engaged in consensual sex with a 43-year-old man. This is something she herself has admitted. And, ultimately, I choose to believe Polanski when he claims he’s deeply sorry for his actions and concedes that he victimized that girl – an honest plea for forgiveness.

In the end, if the victim herself can actually forgive the man; then who am I to condemn him? I imagine her family will never forgive him and they have every right to continue hating him if they want. But that’s ultimately none of my business.

So, in Polanski’s case, I choose not to let it bother me. I can separate the man from the art. He made an awful mistake 36 years ago. But it’s something he regrets and that’s the end of it.

Which brings me now to Woody Allen and this whole mess.

The question: Is Woody Allen a child molester?

The answer: I don’t know.

The only people who know the absolute truth of that are Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow. And that is how it will remain for the rest of their lives.

So, I don’t know. But, here’s the thing, I don’t believe he is. I choose to believe his innocence.


Because, if it were true, that would be absolutely devastating. Here’s someone who is practically a hero of mine. I grew up watching and loving his films. And I continue to consider him one of our great filmmakers…a one-of-a-kind true artist. And there’s no way I could continue to support him if he were this monster.

It’s a lot easier for other people. though. Isn’t it?

If someone doesn’t particularly care for Woody or his films, it’s incredibly easy for them to just say: “Oh, fuck this guy.” And that’s exactly what’s happening. I’m choosing to believe his innocence and many other people are choosing not to. That’s what it all boils down to in the end: Choice.

Because we can’t condemn someone when we don’t actually know all the facts. Child abuse… The rape of a child… These are extremely serious allegations and this is a crime I am particularly passionate and serious about. So, unless I know or am convinced 100% that Woody Allen molested his 7-year-old stepdaughter, I refuse to believe it’s true.

Luckily, I can make that choice with clean conscience. And it’s the same choice that Alec Baldwin, Cate Blanchett, Louis CK, Diane Keaton (the people Farrow mentions in her letter) and others also have made. They choose to believe that this colleague, or artist they admire, is innocent of child abuse.



Now, I don’t want to sound insensitive. Because, any way you slice it, Dylan Farrow is definitely a victim.

Even if the allegations are untrue, this woman has still lived her entire life, since the age of seven, truly convinced that something awful happened to her as a child. That’s the only justification I could come up with for why she would write that letter. She must truly believe in her heart that she was molested. Why else would she wait more than twenty years to speak out about it and say the same awful things Mia Farrow told her to say on that videotape in 1992? A few years ago, Allen received an honorary Oscar… I don’t recall this being brought up again back then.

But I’m not blaming Dylan Farrow for this.

The facts of the case… What we know for a fact, is this: After a 12-year relationship Woody Allen – at the age of 55 – began an affair with the 20-year-old adopted daughter of Mia Farrow and Andre Previn. This might make him an asshole, sure. It might even be creepy for some to imagine…ew. Fine. But it does not make him a criminal.


In any case, I can imagine how that must have infuriated Mia Farrow. She has every right to hate this man. I’d probably hate his guts too if it were me. You asshole. I can’t believe you did this. I’m going to do everything in my power to destroy you.

But that’s all we know for a fact. That’s what we know happened for sure. Twenty years later, Woody Allen and Soon-Yi Previn continue to be married, apparently happy; and have children of their own.


And clearly Mia Farrow is still very upset after all these years. As are her children.

The case was dropped and thrown out of court because it became apparent that the videotape evidence was inconclusive (the subject appeared to have been coached, there were in-camera edits, etc) and Farrow refused to have her daughter take the stand to testify. Maybe she thought the experience would be traumatic for her. Understandable. But wouldn’t that have been extremely damaging to Woody Allen? I think, if she wanted to make sure Allen were convicted of the crime, she would allow her daughter to testify all these things, bring the jury to tears, and hammer it home.

But she didn’t do that. Maybe she didn’t want to put her daughter through that or, maybe, she knew she would not be able to coach her on the stand.

Ultimately, we’ll never know. Just like we don’t know Woody Allen is a child molester.

Why now? Why twenty years later and just because he was given a fucking Golden Globe? I’ll tell you, if I were convinced that someone molested my daughter and got away with it, I would never stop fighting. I would continue to pursue the matter for years and years. I would not go quiet for twenty years. I would do everything in my power to make sure this man paid for what he did.

Who knows? When all else fails, maybe I would even kill this man. That’s how seriously I take child abuse.

But that’s not what happened. What happened is a very upset Mia Farrow couldn’t send Woody Allen to jail for having an affair with an adult woman, so she found some other way to really hurt him…and it didn’t work.


That’s what I believe happened. I do not believe Woody Allen ever laid a hand on Dylan Farrow other than to pat her head. And one wonders how often Allen even got to see her and spend time alone with her, considering he was a) not married to Mia Farrow and b) never lived with her…ever.

They lived across the park from each other for the entire 12 years of their relationship.

And this is not even a Michael Jackson situation, where allegations keep coming up every couple of years and it makes you wonder… And, for the record, I don’t believe Michael Jackson was a pedophile either.


So… I remain unconvinced that Woody Allen did this awful thing. There simply is not enough evidence available to prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not OJ Simpson, where only the most charitable mind could convince itself he was innocent, or Roman Polanski where he has never denied his crime.

This is an angry woman lashing out at a man she hates. That’s all I see, and I can’t take such a serious allegation so lightly. So I choose to believe Woody Allen is innocent and will continue to enjoy his films.

It’s the choice I have made. I will continue to live with that choice until the facts actually show me otherwise.

Because one letter cannot (and should not) be enough to condemn a man for such an awful, unspeakable crime.

No matter how well-written or heartbreaking that letter is.


5 Responses to “On Woody Allen, Roman Polanski And Separating The Artist From The Art”

  1. Charles Lonberger February 3, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    I normally do not comment on these types of threads, but will make an exception here.
    Bad people have, at various times, made great art. Moral turpitude is unrelated to artistic competence. The problem here is, the two directors in question are bad filmmakers as well as people who have done bad things.

    Woody Allen’s private life is between him and God. This being said,, his politics makes him a public threat, just as much as his pedophilia does. And, to state the obvious, you do not have to live with a child to molest her, so to use this as an argument to let this very vile man off the hook is disingenuous.

    More importantly, he is a non-filmmaker. All he does is put people in front of cameras and film them. It is a lazy and passive approach, so I quit reviewing his work a few years ago. If you pay even passing attention to his content, Allen clearly hates women, and vilifies them through his characterizations of them.

    Polankski is something else. I agree, if the “victim” (who was an adolescent, not a child, as in the case of Allen), can forgive him, then why prosecute him?

    However, as a filmmaker, Polanski has been wildly overpraised. His best work has been within the context of cinematic convention, with his direction compartmentalized within the production. Lately, he likewise has turned very lazy as a cineaste: his last film was but filmed theatre. I will not be reviewing his “Venus in Furs”, out of distaste for the source material.

    As for the freak Michael Jackson: if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it is a duck. As far as his “art” goes: everyone in the industry knows, Quincy Jones was the creative force behind the degenerate’s success.

    • Erix Antoine February 4, 2014 at 2:13 am #

      I disagree with most of what you’ve said here. It is clear you have a personal distaste for the people in question. And nothing anyone can say will ever change that view. But thank you for taking the time to read the article regardless.

      • Charles Lonberger February 4, 2014 at 3:08 am #

        Just to clarify: I do not have a personal distaste for Polanski. I just don’t respect his recent work, which is something else altogether.

  2. Erix Antoine February 4, 2014 at 6:26 am #

    Fair enough. And I might concede Polanski’s best days are behind him… Except, I enjoyed The Ghost Writer, for instance, until its unsatisfying third act.

    Though, The Pianist is definitely a fine film.

    I haven’t seen Carnage.

    • Charles Lonberger February 4, 2014 at 10:18 am #

      I might advise you to avert your eyes and not see “Carnage.” Unless the sight of repeated vomiting has you rolling on the floor. This was the production I was thinking of as “but filmed theatre.”
      And, in an allusion to my reference as Polanski’s best direction as “compartmentalized” within a production, “The Pianist” is a case in point, as the production elevated every aspect within it.
      Strictly as an aside: many acclaimed directors have been far better producers of their own product than they were directors. The best and most successful of these was Stanley Kubrick. A contemporary, politicized, more maudlin, and far less successful example of it is Stephen Speilberg.

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