Saturday, February 08, 2014

Woody Allen and the art and the artist

The funny thing about the Woody Allen case is that there is a situation where Hollywood have been deliberately ignoring a filmmaker's crimes because he makes great films. I'm talking, of course, about Polanski, who was arrested and even charged for sexual assault of a 13 year old girl. Whatever the facts of that case, he has been deliberately avoiding facing those charges ever since.

The Woody Allen case is much more murky. Charges were never pressed against him, but that is hardly a demonstration of innocence. It seems highly likely that Dylan Farrow believes that Allen molested her, but it doesn't seem impossible that such a memory is false. I don't care to make a decision either way, and fortunately I do not have to.

The question of whether you can separate the art from the artist is a tricky one, and much harder if the artist is still alive. If you believe Polanski or Allen are guilty of their crimes, then every time you pay to see one of their films you are giving money to a sex offender who has never faced justice. That seems hard to avoid as a conclusion. That said, I don't agree with the idea that someone's politics necessarily taints their work. Some films might be, because of their subject matter. Manhattan becomes more disturbing if you believe Allen is guilty of his crimes (I  have to admit its not a film I rate highly anyway, partially because of the nature of the central romance). But I don't think Midnight in Paris needs to be affected by that. Perhaps Allen should never have been free to make the film in the first place, but not its created, it exists as a piece independent of him. We can interpret it how we like, enjoy it how we like, and we do not need to worry about the author's views.

I'm a fan of "death of the author" to be honest. I think its fun to hear what an authors intentions were, but JK Rowling can say anything about a character, and if its not in the text, then its not a real fact. If Dumbledore being gay isn't apparent in Harry Potter, then he isn't gay I'm afraid. I actually think its entirely possible to read the text in such a way that he is gay, but that is independent of JK Rowling talking about it. The idea of canon is fun, but ultimately there is the text, and there is everything else.

Will I still be watching the works of Woody Allen and Polanski? Probably, yes, but I might think twice about going out of my way to pay for them, particularly the works of Polanski.

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