I’m writing this; you are reading this. You may like it, you may hate it, you may share it with all your friends or you may click on something else by the end of this sentence. But, regardless of which one of these outcomes occurs, do you care who, or what, I am? Will the core of this article somehow be tainted and disregarded if you were to find a flaw in my personal life? Or will it somehow increase in quality if you were to find out that I’m the second coming of Oprah and make the sky rain with hundred dolla’ bills, y’all? It’s the age-old question, and it appears that it is as strong of a question as ever: Does the man behind the art affect the art itself?
This debate has recently been in full force due to Woody Allen receiving the Cecil B. DeMille lifetime achievement award at this year’s Golden Globes. At the ceremony, there was a lengthy tribute paid to the notoriously bespectacled and notoriously MIA writer-director-actor that consisted of a montage of snippets from his vast filmography and a rather odd showcase of some seriously out-of-key pipes courtesy of Diane Keaton.
During this tribute, and now in the days following the show, numerous people expressed their disapproval of the award’s recipient. Most notably, longtime partner Mia Farrow and her son Ronan Farrow utilized Twitter to cast a shadow on the award. They stirred up controversy in regards to Allen infamously marrying Farrow’s adopted daughter and the recent confession from Farrow’s other adopted daughter that he molested her when she was a child. Ronan made a snarky inquiry about whether they included the molestation in the montage, and Mia informed us that she was changing the channel to “Girls” once the tribute started.
Now, Woody Allen is my idol. He has been ever since my brother turned on “Midnight in Paris” two years ago. Before then, I didn’t even really know Woody Allen. I knew the name, sure, but nothing beyond that. That was the first time I had ever watched a film, and I immediately wondered who was responsible and marveled at how it was made. It inspired me deeply, and it turned me from someone who enjoyed writing into someone who wanted to do nothing besides try to create something as beautiful as that movie with my words. Thus began the pursuit to consume numerous other Allen films, and all of them have had a very similar effect.
This is not altered because of any somewhat twisted marriage or any molestation allegations. I will continue to be inspired and excited when watching one of his films. What he does in his spare time is not conflated with what work he produces for the screen. The award was for his undebatable influence and prolificity in the film industry; it was not an award for the best all-around famous dude whom you most want as your nanny.
The fireworks exploding above the New York City skyline in black and white during the opening scene of “Manhattan” are still beautifully romantic, rather than scars across the sky. The witty banter in “Annie Hall,” the hopelessly hilarious relationship foils in “Play It Again, Sam” and the devastating mental breakdowns in “Blue Jasmine” are not suddenly shifted from brilliant and unique to weird, or strange, or lesser.
It is not as if I condone or brush aside such serious matters as child molestation. I’m not being insensitive. However, Allen’s participation in such an action has not even definitively been proven yet. Also, I’m judging an artist how an artist should be judged: by his life’s work — his art. And Allen is certainly an artist. He has written and directed a movie every year for decades. He has pushed the boundaries of dialogue, character and theme and has gotten to the core of humanity in so many instances. He fills the screen with breathtakingly beautiful shots while perfectly fitting jazz-music waltzes into the scene.
Woody wasn’t at the Golden Globes because he wants his work to speak for itself. So let us all allow it to speak as we watch this legendary craftsman weave together stories in a way that only he can do.