Mia Farrow accused Woody Allen of molesting their daughter Dylan Farrow on August 4, 1992. In a rare interview with 60 Minutes aired on November 22, Allen denied the allegations and claimed that Farrow asked him on August 11, “When do we begin our new movie? I’m going for my costume fitting next week.” What do you mean our ‘new movie’? “Well, you know, I’m supposed to go and see the costume designer, I have to get my fitting, we’re going to begin shooting in another five weeks…” Are you kidding? You’re accusing me of child molestation and you think we’re going to just go on with the movie? Diane Keaton took her role in Manhattan Murder Mystery.
A month after the story broke, Allen’s final collaboration with Farrow, Husbands and Wives, was released; if you watch that 60 Minutes report, you’ll notice Steve Kroft silently siding with Allen, even laughing as he relays the above story about the costume fitting—something that would never happen after October 2017, when #MeToo swept Allen up on allegations from 25 years ago. Wonder Wheel, his last film widely distributed in the United States, was released that December, and like most later Woody movies, it didn’t make much of an impression. That 60 Minutes report aired a month after I was born, so, like Michael Jackson, I’ve always known Allen as the man who said, “the heart wants what it wants;” growing up in Manhattan, I knew a few people who never saw him the same way again.
But he still got to make films. Big ones: Bullets Over Broadway, Mighty Aphrodite, and Sweet and Lowdown were all nominated for major awards, and other films like Deconstructing Harry, Everyone Says I Love You, Small Time Crooks, Hollywood Ending, and Anything Else continued to reliably entertain, which is exactly what I loved about seeing new Woody Allen movies in the 2000s and 2010s: although he had a few major successes—Match Point, Midnight in Paris, Blue Jasmine—most of the films from that period are good to great, particularly 2015’s Irrational Man. They were reliable: at the very least, there’d be one or two howlers in his often clunky dialogue, and some very bad mimicry of “the Woody character” (although this was always preferable to the romantic roundelays like Vicky Cristina Barcelona and period pieces like Café Society, dead and dull as dishwater). But they weren’t anonymous. You could feel him in every mistake, every corner cut.
If he made less than a film a year, his inconsistency would be more of a problem, but what was so admirable and comforting about Woody Allen movies in the first 17 years of the 21st century was the excitement of seeing new work by an old master just as it’s being released. Melinda and Melinda isn’t that good, but I remember seeing it with my mom when it came out (ditto for Irrational Man—the whole family joined us for all the others). Blue Jasmine is overrated, but it was thrilling to see Allen continue to thrive in a new decade. I haven’t seen Coup de Chance or Rifkin’s Festival, A Rainy Day in New York is only enjoyable as self-parody, and the last film of his I really loved was Irrational Man. That was eight years ago, and people who’ve seen the French-language Coup de Chance say it’s among Allen’s best work. He’s due for another good one.
The media, and so the world, took one side for 25 years. That flipped six years ago, at an arbitrary 180 degrees: the media, and so the world, dismiss Allen just as they dismissed Mia Farrow after 1992. And now we can’t see his movies.
—Follow Nicky Smith on Twitter: @nickyotissmith