What's Your Favorite Woody Allen Movie?
It seems Woody Allen has received one too many Oscar nominations. This year's nod, best screenplay for Blue Jasmine, was the straw that broke the camel's back for Dylan Farrow, whom Allen adopted along with Mia Farrow in the 1980s.
On February 1, 2014, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof published an open letter from Dylan to the world, asking how it could continue to patronize and honor movies made by a pedophile who had ruined her life.
She has a point. Just try watching Allen's 1989 film Crimes and Misdemeanors after reading Dylan's harrowing letter without throwing up.
In the final ten minutes of that film, there are not one but two appalling scenes. In the first, Allen tells his on-screen sister he's fleeing his sexless marriage and jokes "the last time I was inside a woman was the Statue of Liberty." The camera then instantly cuts to a close-up of two tiny young girls in party dresses. After that, one of the last images on screen is Allen walking down the street eating pizza with his very young on-screen daughter, his arm around her shoulders.
Allen is famous for not showing up at the Oscars to claim his awards. Maybe that's because he knew sooner or later doing so would be bound to push Dylan too far.
Through his lawyer and PR staff, Allen denied the charges. His statement was: "Mr. Allen has read the article and found it untrue and disgraceful. It is tragic that after 20 years a story engineered by a vengeful lover resurfaces after it was fully vetted and rejected by independent authorities. The one to blame for Dylan's distress is neither Dylan nor Woody Allen."
Allen can deny all he likes, but for those who've been paying attention, Allen has been giving free rein to his sexual desires for children as long as he's been making movies, and he openly admits having sex with at least one of Mia Farrow's adopted children.
At the age of 19, Juliette Lewis fell into the hands of the then 57-year-old Allen, playing his illicit love interest (named "Rain" -- no last name) in his 1992 film Husbands and Wives. That was the same year Allen was dumped by Mia after she discovered nude photographs Allen had made of Soon-Yi Previn, Farrow's then twenty-year-old daughter, adopted with conductor Andre Previn. Woody and Soon-Yi were soon an infamous couple, and have adopted two daughters of their own. In Husbands and Wives Lewis plays Allen's student and they end up making out in her parents' kitchen.
The real Lewis dropped out of high school and had numerous arrests to her credit as a teenager. She married in 1999, divorced four years later and joined the Church of Scientology.
Lewis's turn as Rain could not help but remind viewers of Allen's 1979 film Manhattan. There, an 18-year-old Mariel Hemingway played Allen's love interest, having starred with her big sister Margaux two years earlier in the tawdry soft-porn movie Lipstick. In Manhattan, Allen's character says to Hemingway's while breaking up with her: "You can't be in love with me. We've been over this. You're a kid. You don't know what love means. I don't know what it means." Hemingway's character responds: "Nobody knows what the hell's going on. We have laughs together. I care about you. Your concerns are my concerns. We have great sex."
Hemingway helped make a movie that premiered this year at the Sundance Film Festival chronicling her family's extensive history with suicide, substance abuse, and mental illness. The film was called Running from Crazy. Her sister Margaux fatally overdosed on barbiturates in 1996.
It's likely that Allen saw Lipstick and that's what made him want to work with Mariel. Similarly, it was probably 1991's Cape Fear that drew him to Lewis.
In 1991 Martin Scorsese had remade 1962's Cape Fear with Robert De Niro and Lewis. There is a scene in the movie where, seeking revenge on his former attorney, De Niro tries to seduce Lewis at her high school; she's playing the attorney's daughter. During the scene De Niro, then 48, pushes his thumb into Lewis's mouth repeatedly. Lewis at the time was just 18. Scorsese was 49. The script did not call for De Niro to do so, and Lewis was not told it would occur. Scorsese and De Niro conspired together to surprise the young girl with this bold act while the camera was rolling.
Allen must have been thunderstruck by the genius at work there.
Then there's 1995's Mighty Aphrodite, which contains the following utterance from Mia Sorvino, playing a prostitute, which you hear anew after reading Dylan's letter:
So there I am on the first day, on the set, and there's this guy fucking me from behind, right? And there's these two huge guys dressed like cops in my mouth at the same time, and I remember thinking to myself, I like acting. I want to study.
There's sick, there's Hollywood sick, and then there's Woody Allen sick. As Dylan writes: "Woody Allen is a living testament to the way our society fails the survivors of sexual assault and abuse."
In Mighty Aphrodite, Allen's character expresses what may be Woody's own view of adoption, talking to his on-screen wife after she suggests it: "We're not the kind of people who adopt. We don't even lease a car. We have pride of ownership." This from a man with multiple adopted children of his own. Imagine how it felt to be one of those children and hear him say that on screen.
Reviewing Mighty Aphrodite, where Allen cast Helena Bonham Carter as his love interest, Leah Garchik of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote:
Woody Allen's incredible ego is at the core of its major flaw. Carter is the latest in a line of exquisite women Allen has cast as mates for his homely self. From the first few frames of the movie, their relationship doesn't seem to make sense, and there's not a single explanation for a marriage of such obviously unsuitable people. When [Sorvino] embraces Allen, he looks ridiculously shriveled and pale in comparison, like a biology specimen in a laboratory. [Allen's character] Lenny gets a beautiful and kind bimbo for a girlfriend, but for [Carter's character's] potential lover Allen has provided the unpleasantly reptilian Jerry Bender (Peter Weller). It's irksome that Allen has given this desirable woman only the choice between her cranky and unpleasant husband or a villainous and unpleasant lover. As hard to ignore as the film maker's presentation of himself as a winning lover is his persistence in showing himself as a devoted father. From the moment the infant comes into his life, Lenny can't say enough how much he adores him. But aside from two or three scenes where he takes his son to the boxing gym, all of the conversations between husband and wife take place without a child hanging around.
In her poignant letter, Dylan asks those who have played parts in Allen's filmmaking how they can live with themselves. She pleads: "What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or you, Scarlett Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?"
Keaton came on stage at this year's Golden Globe ceremony to present Allen, in absentia, with a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Foreign Press. She sang him the children's song "Make New Friends," echoing her singing performance in Allen's Annie Hall, her breakout role.
Can you imagine how Dylan must have felt watching Keaton sing a children's song in praise of the man who she says repeatedly raped her? Can you imagine how Mia Farrow felt, a woman who trusted Allen around not one but many of her adopted children and saw him seek sexual relations with one of them and be accused of molesting a second?
Dylan finishes her letter by asking another question: "Now, what's your favorite Woody Allen movie?"
She's not the only one who'd like to know the answer to that question.
Follow Kim Zigfeld on Twitter @larussophobe.