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23 Feb, 2021 10:17

‘Allen v. Farrow’, a compelling new four-part HBO docuseries, exposes Woody Allen’s depraved dirty laundry

‘Allen v. Farrow’, a compelling new four-part HBO docuseries, exposes Woody Allen’s depraved dirty laundry

The first episode of the series lays the damning groundwork of allegations that the disgraced filmmaker is a sick and twisted individual. So, why is he still fêted by Hollywood?

‘Allen v. Farrow’ is the explosive four-part HBO documentary series that explores the claims that four-time Academy Award winner Woody Allen molested his and Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Dylan, when she was a small child. The first episode premiered on Sunday night on HBO and the streaming service HBO Max, and makes for captivating viewing.

If you’re looking for a documentary to disabuse yourself of the notion that Allen is a twisted individual and a child molester, then ‘Allen v. Farrow’ is not the series for you. 

Thus far, it has masterfully laid the foundations for the case against Allen, who did not cooperate with the filmmakers. He comes across in the admittedly one-sided docuseries as a creepy, controlling, and narcissistic person who apparently had an inappropriately affectionate and unnatural attachment to his adopted child.

The first episode uses interviews with Mia and Dylan Farrow, and Farrow and Allen’s biological son Ronan, as well as eyewitness accounts from family friends, to build a compelling argument for Allen’s guilt.

The case against Allen is complicated, of course, by the fact that Mia Farrow is a woman scorned by him, so she might have been inclined, out of spite, to project onto him a malevolence that wasn’t really there. But the major caveat to that notion is one of the most revelatory and damning pieces of evidence against Allen – namely, that he was cheating on her with another of her adopted children, Soon-Yi Previn. 

Allen, 85, and Soon-Yi, now his wife, have dismissed the docuseries as a “hatchet job riddled with falsehoods”. In a statement to the Hollywood Reporter magazine, the disgraced director and his wife said filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick “had no interest in the truth,” and accused them of “collaborating with the Farrows and their enablers,” and giving Allen only a “matter of days” to respond to the allegations.

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But let’s face facts: even if Dylan Farrow had never made allegations of sexual molestation against the director, or they were untrue, he should still be labeled a pervert. The idea that Allen thought it was normal and natural to start a sexual relationship with his barely out-of-her-teens, de facto stepdaughter (she was 21 and he was 57, when they began a relationship in 1991), speaks volumes about his depravity and degeneracy. And that’s not even getting into the nude photos of Soon-Yi taken by Allen that Mia Farrow alleges she found in his apartment the day their affair was exposed. 

It is striking that Allen’s shameless debauchery with regard to Soon-Yi, and the damning allegations made by Dylan Farrow, have never slowed down his career. His uninterrupted success reveals much about the level of sycophancy in Hollywood. Remarkably, he has made a film a year since 1992, getting some of Hollywood’s biggest stars to work with him.

Cate Blanchett, Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Penelope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson, Sally Hawkins, Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, Colin Farrell, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Winona Ryder are among those who have worked with Allen after the Soon-Yi revelations and Dylan accusations. 

The appeal of Allen to Hollywood stars is that working with him greatly increases the chance of an Oscar – which is pretty damning of both the ambitious actors and actresses who’ve worked with him and the Academy Awards and their decidedly bad taste in movies.

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I’ve never understood Allen’s appeal. I’m one of the rarest of creatures in that I’m the most devout of cinephiles, yet I’ve always found his films to be utterly pedestrian affairs at best. Even before the allegations of child sexual abuse made by Dylan Farrow and his relationship with Soon-Yi became public in 1992, I thought Allen was a pedantic, vapid, vacuous and pompous cinematic poseur. 

Many people say to me they love Allen’s films, especially ‘Annie Hall’, but I always feel they’re only saying that because they think they’re supposed to. Saying you love his films is like some secret handshake that signals you’re an intellectual or something. 

Allen’s feminine, nebbish and effete, ‘man without a chest’ persona, and the elite, upper-crust New York he inhabited, were anathema to me, a working-class Irish Catholic kid from Brooklyn. I recognized my New York and my New York family when I watched Scorsese, most notably ‘Goodfellas’, but not when I watched Allen.

In an attempt to try to ‘get’ him, I watched his entire filmography all over again about seven years ago. It did nothing to dissuade me from my first negative opinion of his middling, and frankly middlebrow, movie-making, and did much to further convince me of his apparent deviancy.

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The most obviously uncomfortable piece of cinematic evidence against Allen is the 1979 movie ‘Manhattan’, where he, a 42-year-old, dates a 17-year-old girl in an uncomfortable bit of foreshadowing to the Soon-Yi situation. As someone who prefers to separate an artist’s personal life from their art, and who prefers skepticism to #MeToo-ism, Allen is the exception to my rule.

Watching ‘Allen v. Farrow’ may be jarring to someone who’s a fan, but by now, if people are defending the film-maker they are so delusional and morally pliable as to be ridiculous. 

It is important to note, however, that it’s possible to both think Allen is a monster who molested his daughter, but also to enjoy his films. For instance, I am capable of watching and liking Roman Polanski movies knowing full well his history of sexual deviancy. ‘Chinatown’is still unquestionably one of the best films ever made, regardless of Polanski’s crimes.

The biggest difference between Polanski and Allen, though, is that Polanski is a brilliant artist who was imprisoned and went into self-imposed exile for his crime, while Allen is a pretentious hack who has never been held to account for the repugnant misdeeds of which he’s been accused.

In conclusion, ‘Allen v. Farrow’ is a compelling piece of documentary television. I’m looking forward to watching the next three episodes, and to never watching those insipid Woody Allen films ever again.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.