I, like many others, full heartedly believe Dylan Farrow. I believe she was abused as a young girl by a man who was supposed to protect her and be her guardian and was supposed to shield her from the ugliness of the world rather than perpetuate it. I believe that that person was Woody Allen. I have scratched his name from my future writings. I won’t see his films or support him in any way. My cinematic experience is rich enough. I’m a film critic, enthusiast, cinephile, and no, I don’t think you need to watch Woody Allen films to be any of those things..
The big issue is the idea that we need to judge his art and/or consume it. That “we” are missing out or doing our jobs incorrectly if we don’t shine a light on his films. It’s forcing significance on a director who makes as many poorly received films these days (To Rome With Love, Magic in the Moonlight, Irrational Man) as he does ones that are reviewed favorably (Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine – but that one is such A Streetcar Named Desire rip-off that it hardly counts). One of his most famous films is one where he ends up with a 17-year-old girl, and he believes the idea of a younger man with an older woman is a “comic idea.” He is displaced with the times, and we put such a tremendous amount of significance on his films because historical canon has told us that we should.
There are a number of reasons why I don’t feel the need to watch Woody Allen’s films, and I certainly don’t have the capability to write about my decision-making process in the beautiful way Matt Zoller Seitz did. Beyond the fact that very simply I didn’t grow up with Allen’s work guiding my viewing process or even my introduction into how comedy could work across various planes of storytelling (I have directors such as Edgar Wright for that), my decision was pretty definitive by the time I read Dylan Farrow’s original piece. I had seen a number of Allen’s films at that point (but hardly any when you think of just how many he’s shot), and none of them had enriched my life in a way that it meant more to me to keep watching than it did to wage my own private stance against the filmmaker and say “enough is enough.” I’m sure missing out on my $11 at the movie theater won’t mean much to a filmmaker who is considered an icon, but it means something to me that I’m not spending them in a way that supports him.
In an industry where women voices and minority voices are so under-cherished, it remains appalling to me that filmmakers such as Sean Penn, Mel Gibson, David O’Russell, Roman Polanski and Woody Allen continue to get work. It just serves to prove the frankly disturbing idea that in Hollywood if you’re a white male, you’ve won the ticket to do anything you want if you possess anything close to recognized talent.
I know that as someone who writes about film or wants to be in the industry that there is a certain pressure to watch certain films. I just finally saw The Godfather for the first time a few months ago and had been met with a lot of “Well, how can you be a critic without having seen the best film ever made?” comments directed my way.
Pretty easily. And now, I can do the same with Allen. There are so many films in the world and so many wonderful, beautiful films showcasing diverse stories that are worth celebrating. Old and new, there are films ready to be consumed that you don’t need to feel that you have to see Allen’s films just because he’s worn the “one of the greats” moniker for so long now.
Here’s my suggestion: seek out new and diverse talent. Instead of supporting Allen, go and marathon all three of Ava DuVernay’s films: Selma, I Will Follow and Middle of Nowhere. Or, if you need the perfect “girls night in” double feature Gina Prince-Bythewood’s Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights. In an environment where female representation in film is embarrassingly weak at best, it is especially hard to watch as Hollywood continues to prop up these filmmakers who have perpetrated abuse against women rather than celebrate the unique female voices that have been regulated to the sidelines for far too long.
Go and explore Agnes Varda’s vast filmography or the bleak world of Lynn Shelton. Watch in wonderment as Jane Campion spellbinds you in Bright Star and Gillian Armstrong captures your heart in Little Women. Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail is just as good as any rom-com and should be celebrated as much as Annie Hall.
Options for film are out there; explore a little rather than take on the beaten path. You can learn just as much from film and about yourself through seeking out new and fresh perspectives.
I don’t watch Woody Allen films because I believe he’s an abuser. Hollywood is probably filled with a bunch of assholes, and I’m sure that we don’t know about most of them. But Allen’s been called out, and I believe Dylan Farrow.
Watch his films at your prerogative; that’s not my choice to make for you. But don’t feel that you have to just because you’ve been told he’s one of the greats. Film is about expression and sharing worldviews; find and celebrate your own.