I've enjoyed the odd Woody Allen film in my day. Interiors is actually a pretty decent attempt to make an "American Bergman" film, though it strikes a few false notes; it's far superior to some of his movies (Another Woman, say, which, at least as I remember it, is an utter embarrassment, straining in the most adolescent ways imaginable to be a significant work of art and falling flat on its face). There was a time that I actually tried to follow his cinema, and several of his older films that I wouldn't mind re-watching - Hannah and Her Sisters, Crimes and Misdemeanors, Husbands and Wives, Deconstructing Harry, and Celebrity all held my interest, and I have the same fondness for Annie Hall and Manhattan as anyone. I loved his performance in Martin Ritt's film about blacklisting, The Front. But you know what? I've stopped trusting him, not because of any of the negative fallout from the end of his relationship with Mia Farrow, but... well, it was because of his 2005 film Match Point, actually.
Note: the background for my writing this is two articles that have appeared online recently: "An Open Letter From Dylan Farrow," who talks, in response to Allen's Golden Globe award, about being sexually abused by Allen when she was seven years old, in 1993; and a defense of Woody, written by someone who knows him. I won't try to weigh in on either of those articles, but if you haven't read them, you should. I don't know what Allen is or isn't guilty of. What I do know is that, with Crimes and Misdemeanors (made before the alleged molestation, in 1989) and Match Point, he has made two feature films that take as their theme someone who commits a morally repugnant act, and gets away unpunished. It was one visit to that particular theme too many for me not to wonder if there was something Woody was trying to tell us...
Of course, not all works of art need be read as autobiography. At the time, I was willing to take Crimes and Misdemeanors as a work of art; it tells the story of a married man (Martin Landau) who ends up killing the woman (Anjelica Huston) with whom he is having an affair, when she threatens to go public with her accusations. Landau's story is contrasted with a more comedic strand with Woody in his usual "neurotic schmo" mode. I thought the ending - Sam Waterston, as a blind priest, dancing at a party - was pretty obviously inspired by the ending of Kurosawa's Ran, using a character's blindness to comment on the failings of God to maintain a just universe. But the film still works. Besides, Allen has always been derivative - making Stardust Memories as an Americanization of Fellini's 8 1/2, making fun of Bergman (Love and Death) then borrowing from him in every second movie (as well as working with his cinematographer Sven Nykvist and frequent Bergman star Max von Sydow). I was willing to give Allen credit at the very least for coming up with a theme - a man going unpunished for murder - that had no obvious autobiographical resonance. That impressed me - since by the time I saw the film, I was getting pretty tired of seeing him deconstructing his own neuroses, complexes, and feelings of inferiority on-screen, and starting to wonder if in fact his willingness to be public about his failings was less a matter of bravery and artistic candor and more one of perverse narcissism.
Then came Match Point. At that point, I knew that there had been allegations of Allen being involved in sexual abuse, though at the time, I didn't know they involved Dylan Farrow, but rather thought they had something to do with that adoptive stepdaughter he ended up leaving Mia for, Soon-Yi Previn. I wasn't following the story that closely - just enough to know that Mia Farrow was pissed off at him. Woody had already fessed up to liking younger women in Manhattan, so his actions weren't that surprising; nor was Mia Farrow's anger. I was prepared to write off any of what I heard as an act of vengeance - file it in the "Hell Hath No Fury" folder and not make too much of a big deal of it.
Then came Match Point. It was getting rave reviews, and I elected to go see it. I barely remember the film; there's a lot of tennis, and beautiful rich people fucking, and then - someone commits a murder, and gets away with it. Besides not being all that impressed by the film - which I found curiously cold and flat - I left the theatre with the clammy feeling that Woody was, in fact, trying to confess to something: that he had revisited the theme of unpunished guilt because it was relevant to his life, and he was narcissistic enough to turn his own discomfort with himself for whatever he felt he was getting away with into a big screen entertainment. Why else would he revisit such a particular, and unpleasant, theme? At the best, he was repeating himself; at the worst, he was engaging in a kind of exhibitionistic display of his own unpunished sins. Besides feeling dirtied by the experience, I came away from the film - still not knowing about the Dylan Farrow story - thinking that probably he HAD done something untoward back there. Whatever it was, I didn't want to be a party to it, and while, over the last few years, I've seen a few films he's appeared in, and dipped into his back catalogue once (when the Vancity Theatre screened Deconstructing Harry), I haven't watched a new film of Allen's since Match Point.
The timelines don't add up, of course, for both films to be referring to whatever happened with Dylan Farrow. Crimes and Misdemeanors was made four years before the alleged 1993 episode. If these two films are a veiled confession of something he has personally gotten away with, it wasn't the abuse of his stepdaughter - at least not the first time around.
But reading back those two articles in light of these two films, and knowing how often Woody's cinema tends to the autobiographical and confessional, I find myself inclined to believe Dylan Farrow's story.