Sunday, February 09, 2014

In re:

So I was watching "Twelve O'Clock High" late last night.  Gregory Peck is the star; the man who became Atticus Finch.  And remember who Atticus defended?  A black man, who was guilty because a white woman said he was.  Guilty of rape, when there was no evidence the man ever touched the woman, except her word that he did.  Oh, yes, the case was underlined by the fact the black man had only one arm, the other being withered since childhood.

All of that does occur in a courtroom, but the conviction that the guilty man must die is a conviction reached outside the courtroom (not that the courtroom did much to blunt the headlong rush to judgment).  The guilty man's fear of the mob that wants to hang him prompts him to escape, and he his shot to death, which I suppose is a legitimate operation of the legal process.

But the community was determined to see him die, to see him held accountable for his crime, because they were determined to believe the victim, because they were determined to believe the accused was guilty because he was accused; and because he was a black man.

The only difference is, nobody's gonna put Woody Allen in jail now, or lynch him.  But the decision that he must be guilty?  Why, precisely, is it right in this context?  Because the system is flawed?  Which system?  And how does this correct that flaw?


  1. As you say, no one's going to raise a lynch mob against Allen or hang him, from what I understand he can't be prosecuted for what his adopted daughter accuse him of. I would certainly agree with you if those things were remotely likely to be the outcome of the accusation against him. When there's a possible legal case, I would even be against any of it being discussed in the media, it would belong in the hands of a prosecuting attorney and investigators and I absolutely believe a right to a fair trial, both for the accused and for the public, is more important than the ability of the media to sell advertising on the basis of sensational scandal. I include the public's right to a fair trial because that's what the public has a right to, a trial that results in the conviction of a guilty person and only a guilty person, not even a person who is, otherwise, repugnant.

    But if the question is whether or not he should be held up as a respectable artist, someone who is honored with a Golden Globe, that's a far different standard because there is no right to that kind of respect or honor. That's a withholding of privilege and that doesn't require the same level of certainty of any specific accusation. What he's admitted to in his relationships with young girls while being a middle-aged man does the job for me. They render his movies not funny but massively creepy and even, in the case of Manhattan, exploitative.

  2. You raise two legitimately different issues. OTOH, I don't admire the life of Hemingway (Muriel's grandfather) , but I admire his art.

    Is one of us wrong, if you don't admire Hemingway?

  3. I watched "Blue Jasmine" the other night. If I ever knew, I'd forgotten the movie was written and directed by Woody Allen, but it came highly recommended by several people. Though the film was very good, I can't say I enjoyed watching, because the story was so very emotionally wrenching. Cate Blanchett was outstanding, and the movie included very fine acting by others. Even if I'd known the movie was written and directed by Allen, I'd forgotten the lurid details of the custody trial between Mia Farrow and Allen.

    After I finished watching, I went online and happened to see the link to Dylan Farrow's open letter in the NYT. After reading it, I felt sick. Last night, I read the transcript of the custody ruling.

    The world of celebrity is so often in a different universe. The family of Mia Farrow and Allen, unusual though it may have been, was a family, and Allen seemed to have no concept of proper boundaries. Also, his thinking that adopted children are not "real" children is seriously out of whack.

    A few months earlier, I saw "Midnight in Paris" and enjoyed it very much. Allen is immensely talented, but he's also creepy, at best, and a pedophile,at worst.

    What do we make of other gifted artists such as Lewis Carroll and his relationship to Alice Liddell? His photographs of Alice would quite likely be considered child pornography today.

    Is it possible to separate the art from the artist? I ask because I struggle with the question.

  4. Mimi--

    I've been working on an answer, and it comes down to whether or not the personal life of the artist invades your appreciation of the art.

    Sometimes I can separate the two; sometimes I can't. I don't have a bright line, or a definitive rule. Does the art surpass the artist? It can. When it doesn't, is it art?

    That's where I am with Woody. Even without his personal life, I find his work rather strained on second examination; and that, of course, is the real test of art: does it hold up to subsequent appreciations?

    And with that weakness, his personal peccadilloes just make it harder to watch his movies. I don't find any pedophilia in "Manhattan," still; but the whole theme of it seems so thin and dull now.

    A lot of his work strikes me that way, as time goes by.

  5. people make allowances for each other until they can't. and everybody's stopping point is different - I don't think art ends up being a very decisive factor

  6. After I finished watching, I went online and happened to see the link to Dylan Farrow's open letter in the NYT. After reading it, I felt sick. Last night, I read the transcript of the custody ruling.

    Apropos of no one else's reactions, mine are the result of spending a few years doing family law; and just law in general.

    Lots of ugly allegations, some of which I could substantiate, some of which I couldn't. It's hard to decide which is worse: the former, or the latter. And I've seen people reach truly bizarre conclusions (like guardians ad litem, people assigned to represent the interests of the children in custody disputes) based on the same set of facts I had.

    Made me very wary of conclusions.

  7. The only conclusion I've reached is that I don't believe Dylan Farrow is lying, which still leaves wiggle room for the rest of the conclusions.

  8. The only conclusion I've reached is that I don't believe Dylan Farrow is lying, which still leaves wiggle room for the rest of the conclusions.

    I was just telling my daughter that I had a distinct memory from childhood of getting into a hornet's nest, and being covered with the swarm of stinging insects.

    Obviously the trauma of the event burned the memory into being unforgettable.

    It was many, many years later that I realized it wasn't a memory of an event, but of a dream.

    Which is not to compare my story to Dylan's, but to say that she doesn't have to be lying to not be telling what actually happened.

    Which is where the problem lies.

  9. This whole question of whether we are to shun the work of seriously immoral artists reminds of the conclusion of Saki's "The Blind Spot":

    "Have you shown it to anyone else?" asked Sir Lulworth, reaching out his hand for the incriminating piece of paper.

    "No," said Egbert, handing it across the table, "I thought I would tell you about it first. Heavens, what are you doing?"

    Egbert's voice rose almost to a scream. Sir Lulworth had flung the paper well and truly into the glowing centre of the grate. The small, neat handwriting shrivelled into black flaky nothingness.

    "What on earth did you do that for?" gasped Egbert. "That letter was our one piece of evidence to connect Sebastien with the crime."

    "That is why I destroyed it," said Sir Lulworth.

    "But why should you want to shield him?" cried Egbert; "the man is a common murderer."

    "A common murderer, possibly, but a very uncommon cook."

  10. Rick, you cynic! I had a belly laugh on that one. I confess that I'd rather have seen "Blue Jasmine" than not. Woody Allen's soundtracks are some of the best, and I can be wooed with music. Give me good music, and you can have whatever else you want. ;-)

    I suppose I will know when the next Allen movie comes out whether I'll choose to watch or not. I'm not crazy about all of his films. Some I just don't get, plus, in others, I sense a misogynic undercurrent that makes me uneasy.

    But then there's Alfred Hitchcock, who apparently had a conventional private life, but who displayed a propensity for putting beautiful women, especially blonds, in dangerous and frightening situations that seemed a bit sadistic to me. Then again, perhaps I'm paranoid.

  11. Rick--

    I had been piddling with another rather tedious post more or less on this subject, but your comment retires it.

    That was delicious.

  12. I've been thinking of gathering up my comments here to use to put together a post on my own blog, where I haven't posted for days, thus using Adventus as the place for out-of-town tryouts. Not sure whether I'll do it or not, as I haven't had incentive or energy for blogging lately.

  13. I think the best movie I've seen in the past twenty years was Terrence Malik's The New World, which featured a fourteen year old Q'orianka Kilcher doing quite explicit love scenes with both Colin Farrell and Christian Bale. Her portrayal of Pocahontas was absolutely astonishing.

    This whole Woody Allen thing is in some ways more about Roman Polanski than it is about Allen, whose work served as a bridge for the extremes represented in the work of Polanski. Would anyone have ever heard of Mia Farrow if she hadn't starred in Rosemary's Baby?