Woody Allen's daughter revisits abuse
Dylan Farrow speaks for the first time about the alleged sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her adoptive father.PT0M0S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-31vlv 620 349 February 3, 2014
What is anyone supposed to make of the monstrous situation that has developed in relation to Woody Allen? Just as his film Blue Jasmine is in contention for three Academy Awards - including a best actress nomination for Cate Blanchett - ancient accusations of sexual abuse have resurfaced, with Dylan Farrow, 28, saying she was molested by Allen when she was seven years old and his adopted daughter.
The accusations are a nightmare for the director and everyone associated with the film, and they are also objectively disturbing, but members of the academy should ignore them when they vote for the Oscars.
The accusations first surfaced during the intensely acrimonious custody battle between Mia Farrow and Allen in 1994. Regardless of the truth or falsehood of anything Dylan alleges, it is an attested fact that allegations of sexual abuse are frequently used as a strategy in such battles.
At the time, a New York judge decided there was insufficient evidence to substantiate the claims despite his marked lack of sympathy for Allen.
And let's not forget that Woody Allen did not exactly command universal sympathy when he hitched up with another of Farrow's daughters - no blood relation but a lot of people thought the situation was icky.
Ickiness, however, or indeed grave offence, is not the issue when it comes to art. As far as the criminal law of the state of New York goes there is a statute of limitations and the time for any prosecution has passed.
Woody Allen. Photo: AP
Whether Woody Allen could be prosecuted elsewhere - there has been the suggestion that the alleged offence took place in Connecticut - is again a separate question. If Dylan Farrow wants him charged with a crime she should exhaust every avenue.
What does suggest itself, however, is that no one has ever wanted Woody Allen charged with sexual abuse of a child for the simple reason that there is every chance he would be found innocent and that (rightly or wrongly) would be the end of the matter. What some of the Farrow kids, with some vehemence and a group of other people - with whatever motive - want is to be able to hang this most deadly of swords of Damocles over his head at a moment of maximum disadvantage to his career.
It would be, for instance, only human if you were a Hollywood producer with a competitive product, to take some satisfaction in the resurrection of these charges just at this moment. Didn't we see the perennially wholesome looking Diane Keaton, Annie Hall herself, accept a Golden Globe Award for Lifetime Achievement on Allen's part? Hasn't our Cate been wiping the board in all the award ceremonies that serve in the lead-up to the Oscars?
Hell, if you were a producer who thought your product should get more glitter you might even be tempted to encourage the resurrection of these charges. Why not exploit all that grief and pain?
Is it possible Dylan Farrow's memory of what was done to her was shaped and reconfigured by Mia Farrow's maternal horror of what happened to her marriage with Woody Allen? Of course it's possible. Is it likely? Who could possibly have any idea.
At the end of World War II, Ezra Pound, the great American poet who had broadcast against the Allies as a propagandist, was charged with treason and there was an uproar when he was awarded the Bollingen Prize. George Orwell, who had fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War, said there was no reason why he shouldn't get it. He didn't like Pound's poetry but poetry and political morality were plain different things. The Woody Allen case is, in the end, as simple as this: filmmaking and personal morality are plain different things. As it happens, I don't think Blue Jasmine is a great film and I don't think Cate Blanchett's performance is a great performance. If I did, however, I wouldn't allow the smoke and mirrors of these ancient and awful accusations to stop me from voting for them.
And, for heaven's sake, Woody Allen at his not infrequent best is a great filmmaker and Cate Blanchett, the lord knows, is a great actress.
There is a deep moral power in art which is the power of truth as the imagination shapes and structures it. The crimes and misdemeanours of artists, if they have been committed, require a wholly different kind of judgment that should be reserved for real life and real courts.
Peter Craven is a literature and culture critic.