Thursday, February 13, 2014

IS IT THE ART OR THE ARTIST?

The other night, I watched the movie, Blue Jasmine, which was highly recommended to me by several people. If I ever knew, I'd forgotten the movie was written and directed by Woody Allen. Though the film was very good, I can't say I enjoyed watching, because the story was emotionally wrenching. Cate Blanchett was outstanding, and the movie included very fine acting by others in the cast.  The choice of music in the soundtrack is excellent, as is usual for Woody Allen's movies, which, for me, adds a great deal to my enjoyment.

Even if I'd known the movie, an homage to Tennessee Williams's Streetcar Named Desire, was written and directed by Allen, I'd forgotten the lurid details of the custody trial after Mia Farrow and Allen separated.  After I finished watching, I went online and happened to see the link to Dylan Farrow's open letter in the NYT. After reading it, I felt sick. Later, I read the transcript of the custody ruling.

The world of celebrity so often seems in a different universe. The family of Mia Farrow and Allen, unusual though it may have been, was a family, and Allen seemed to have little knowledge or skill in parenting and no concept of proper boundaries within a family. His view that adopted children are not "real" children is seriously out of whack. 

A few months earlier, I watched  Midnight in Paris and enjoyed it very much. Allen is immensely talented, but he's also creepy, at best, and a pedophile, at worst, but I confess that I'd rather have seen the two films than not.  The only firm conclusion I've reached is that I do not believe Dylan Farrow is lying.

Is it possible to separate the art from the artist?  I ask because I struggle with the question.  What do we make of other gifted artists such as Lewis Carroll and his relationship to Alice Liddell? His photographs of Alice would quite likely be considered child pornography today.  I suppose I will know when the next Allen movie comes out whether I'll choose to watch or not. I'm not crazy about all of his films. Some I just don't get, plus, in others, I sense a misogynistic undercurrent that makes me uneasy.

Then there's Alfred Hitchcock, who apparently had a conventional private life, but who displayed a propensity for putting beautiful women, especially blonds, in dangerous and frightening situations.  Even as I enjoyed the chills and thrills, Hitchcock's treatment of the women seemed rather creepily sadistic to me.

After I'd written the words above, I read , which sheds more light on child abuse and memories and leads me to consider Dylan Farrow's account even more credible. Zoe was abused by a family member when she was a very young girl.  She's writing a book about her experience and has done quite a bit of research on the subject.
People who do like, or love, Allen’s work often argue that we should separate the art from the artist. I don’t disagree; especially if we are able to do the reverse, and separate the artist from the art, not grant him any greater benefit of the doubt than we would another human. But we have to acknowledge that this is difficult, just as it’s difficult for us to recognize warning signs or baldly stated declarations of inappropriate behavior when they concern someone we know, trust, love, admire, or depend on to pay the bills and keep things running smoothly. If we like the art, if we like the love or the family unit or the school community or just generally the way things are, we can feel guilty if the person at the center of it has committed a heinous crime.
Further:
Research also shows that children are not nearly so suggestible on the topic of sex abuse as previously believed, especially school-aged children. In the past 40 years, children’s testimony has gone from being inadmissible in a court of law to being not only allowed as evidence but sometimes used as the sole evidence in cases involving sex abuse, which is notoriously difficult to prove (physical proof is rarely present even in cases of vaginal penetration).

4 comments:

Russ Manley said...

Well it's obvious, isn't it, to any right-minded person that heterosexuals are perverted deviates and should never be allowed to adopt children or enter into a so-called "marriage" which will only cause grief and pain to everyone around them and bring about the destruction of the family, if not the whole country and the world.

Why is no one shouting and screaming about the wickedness of the abominable heterosexuals on Fox News? How much more proof do you need of the evil in our midst?

JCF said...

I certainly thought it was creepy when he got together w/ Soon Yi Previn (Mia Farrow's adopted daughter) . . . but they've been together 20 years now. So I think there's a statute of limitations on creepiness.

I really can't process the other. My *gut* says it's not true---that whatever did or didn't happen has been so thoroughly soaked in the poison of the Farrow/Allen break-up, that we'll just never know. [OCICBW]

My favorite Allen period was the middle one: "Hannah and Her Sisters" "Crimes and Misdemeanors" "Husbands and Wives" "Mighty Aphrodite" "Deconstructing Harry" (thought "Midnight in Paris" was overrated).

I'd like to see "Blue Jasmine" sometime...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Russ, I know. Where's the fairness?

Grandmère Mimi said...

Midnight in Paris was fluff, but nice fluff. The performances in Blue Jasmine were amazing, and, in both films, the choices in music were excellent.

I don't know about specifics, but I believe the relationship between Allen and Dylan was inappropriate, and Allen was the adult.