Reel Talk: Woody Allen—a case of art imitates life

woody allen By Sean van der Heijden '16, Copy Editor and Staff Writer 

With Woody Allen’s latest film, “Irrational Man”, just announced to premier at the Cannes Film Festival in late May, there are once again lengthy conversations resurfacing regarding Allen’s personal life. In case you aren’t aware, Allen was accused in the ’90s of molesting his then seven year-old adopted daughter, a claim that has never been conclusively proven and for which Allen was not charged . He also ran away with his then-girlfriend’s adopted daughter, whom he’s been married to since 1997.

Now there are more claims being made by Mariel Hemingway in her autobiography “Out Came the Sun” which was released on April 7. Here, she claims Allen flew to her house once she turned 18 and tried to seduce her into flying to Paris with him. “I didn’t know what the [sleeping] arrangement was going to be, [and] I wasn’t sure if I was even going to have my own room,” she says. Some have labeled this as a publicity stunt; some say that Allen acted responsibly by waiting until she was 18 and asking for consent, and others just say he’s a creep. I think the answer lies in his films.

This incident came two years after Allen and Hemingway filmed “Manhattan” in 1979, in which Allen’s character is dating Hemingway’s Tracy—a teenager who’s still in high school—until he starts an affair with his best friend’s mistress. If that’s not sexually convoluted then I don’t know what is. What’s interesting, though, is that throughout the film, Allen consistently acknowledges how inappropriate his relationship is with Tracy, even going so far to say that he’d be arrested if her parent’s found out.

There are also works such as “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1987), where Allen starts a relationship with his ex-wife’s sister; “Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989), about two men having extramarital affairs; “Match Point” (2002), about a woman who falls for her fiancé’s brother, “Vicky Christina Barcelona”, concerning a sexual relationship between a man and two women; and “Midnight in Paris” (2013), where a man has an extramarital affair, is dumped by his mistress, and then leaves his wife for a different women.

All of this is to say that Allen is interested in sex—like, a lot—and how it influences and changes us as human beings. A lot of the actions and escapades in his films are either immoral or societally questionable, but what’s interesting is that all of them—bar “Manhattan”—are legal.

But I’m not saying you can answer any questions about Allen’s private life by studying his films. In fact, I don’t think anyone can answer those questions at this point; what I do know, though, is that art is a reflection of your inner self, and Allen’s art cannot be ignored in relation to the rest of his life.

I do think it’s ridiculous, though, that some people boycott his films because they believe him to be a creepy pedophile. Yes, he pushes the boundaries what’s considered acceptable sexual behavior—that’s for sure. But the rest has never been proven, and so far as I’m concerned, it never will be. And his films are really great, if you haven’t seen them.

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