The Art And/Or The Man


The following is a repost of an old Facebook article

Ever since that ‘unfavorable‘ story about Woody Allen hit the press I refused to watch any of his movies. Why couldn’t he have been accused of something else? Like murder perhaps. If he had been accused of murder I would have just loaded up “Crimes and Misdemeanors”—or its unofficial sequel “Match Point” (aren’t ‘most’ of Allens’ films ‘unofficial sequels?’)—and regaled in their prescience. But ‘this’; I cannot use ‘this’ as a launching pad for curious reinterpretations of his work. ‘This’ had me trying to flush him out of my mind. Force his influence from my work (I’ve always thought that if he and I collaborated on a flick it would be devastatingly brilliant, it would take place in the the 20s, Harlem, black-&-white, lots of swingin’ jazz, protagonist would be a bespectacled nebbishy piano player named something like Hamilton ‘Ham’ Eddie who falls in love with a brilliant writer who dreams of living in Paris and when she’s not tip-tapping away at her typewriter she’s teaching herself French, think “Celebrity” meets “Midnight in Paris” with a dash of Spike Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues,” but I digress).

With all that said, just the other night I loaded up one of my favorite Allen flicks, “Manhattan” (“I’m from Philadelphia. I believe in God.”); man…just peep that opening: Black-&-white super-widescreen framing of a late 70s New York. Allen’s wonderfully ambivalent narration. Gershwin’s slippery and triumphant “Rhapsody in Blue” blarin’ behind it all. Interestingly, when I first viewed this flick the relationship between Allen and Mariel Hemingway’s 17-year-old character creeped me out. After a few views though I began to I see it as a satire on insecure middle-aged men who date very young women; in making the Hemingway character a very young high school-aged girl Allen was referencing the absurdity of these relationships. Also…the constant doubt Allen’s character expresses about their union juxtaposed with the surprising gravitas of Hemingway’s character adds an interesting dilemma for the audience. We are forced, not to reconcile with their relationship, but to merely ‘consider’ reconciliation. Our knee-jerk reactions give way and gray seeps in making a mess of our preconceived notions…

However, when I became aware of the allegations I started doing a little detective work: Both “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Match Point” question our notion of a divine moral authority who doles out eternal punishments for our wrong-doing. In each film the protagonist either murders or is intimately involved in the murder of his mistress and gets away with it. Any ‘punishment’ for their actions now lies with them and them alone, not God. Will they live a life burdened by guilt or will they be able to ‘live with’ what they have done? This led me to wonder: Were these films Allen’s way of reconciling with HIS actions? Perhaps if he could get audiences to corroborate his theories he could place the burdens of his guilt onto them. As a writer, I wrestle with many, many demons in my work. It’s one of the most beautiful things about this game, so I understand this desire, and although I cannot ‘live with’ the idea that one of my primary influences did something this heinous I ‘still’ am able to connect with the art and spite the man even when I don’t ‘want’ to. But then again…

A couple days ago I caught “Crimes” on cable (a moment that used to bring me great joy) and once it ended there was a spot advertising Allen’s latest flick, “Blue Jasmine,” starring Cate Blanchett (swoon) and Louis C.K.!!!! A flick I had been jonesin’ to see ever since I first became aware of it. But instead of joy, I felt indifference. And the crazy thing is I’m responding to allegations, not what has been prov—

Wait a minute. Soon-Yi. Soon fucking Yi.

Damn it.

I was very young when the whole Soon-Yi ‘scandal’ broke and since I found Allen’s work long after the dust settled on it I felt I could ignore it. But now, now there’s ‘this.’

Thoughts? Is it possible to separate the ‘art’ from the person? Truth be told, we know astonishingly little about the artists whose work we admire.

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