Allen makes an astute point in this otherwise scabrous and unnecessary part of the book: For decades, Mia Farrow has tried to convince the world that Allen had molested her young daughter. But until very recently, she was one of Roman Polanski’s defenders. In 1977, Polanski was charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl. He pleaded to a lesser crime—sex with a minor—and then fled the country, living since then in exile in Europe.
Read: Roman Polanski wants ‘due process’
Drugging and raping a child are about as bad as it gets, as, one might assume, Farrow would agree. Yet in 2005, Farrow flew to England to be Polanski’s literal character witness in a libel suit. If the Farrows needed an answer about how Hollywood could have accepted Woody Allen for so long, they have their answer right there.
In January 2018, when the family’s hope that Allen would be run out of Hollywood was finally coming true, Mia Farrow realized that she was herself a carrier of the #MeToo contagion for having supported Polanski for so many years. She decided to rectify the situation by, bizarrely, sending a tweet to Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer: “Dear Samantha, I need to tell you how very very sorry I am that I ever defended Polanski. I send you my respect and love.”
Well, thanks a lot, is what I would have said, but I am not an evolved person.
Samantha Geimer is a remarkable person. She tweeted back, archly and with great feeling: “You need not be sorry. People support their friends. I understood that at 14 and took no offense to the many letters. I never needed the belief of strangers to validate my truth. Roman and my family reconciled long ago, I wish he and his family nothing but happiness.”
“Nothing but happiness.” Now there’s a phrase for you. Some wrongs are so great that no legal or bureaucratic process can ever make things right. At some point, the only way to get unchained from a monster is through forgiveness. It would seem impossible for Geimer to be able to forgive Polanski, but she did—who understands how grace operates?—and has apparently been at peace ever since.
Read: The Hollywood tide turns on Woody Allen
In any event, good old Hollywood (seat of our moral betters, who labor to instruct us on the best opinions on all matters including foreign policy and electoral politics) suddenly, overnight, in a kind of road-to-Damascus situation, decided that it’s wrong to sexually molest a child. Hollywood also decided—again, after 30 years—that Allen is guilty of such a crime. Today he can’t get his movies distributed in the United States. He’s dead to the industry.
The inevitable question, lately raised about artists as different from one another as Picasso and R. Kelly, is this: Can we still enjoy his work?
Of course we can, because the movies don’t really belong to Woody Allen any more than they do to you and me. When I watched Manhattan recently, I didn’t think of the moral rightness or wrongness of clicking Play, and thereby sending a few quarters tinkling through the gears of a system that will ultimately benefit Woody Allen financially. Instead, I thought about the summer evening when my mother and I escaped the Catskills house of a great aunt and drove into Kingston to see the movie, feeling transported and cosmopolitan for a blessed couple of air-conditioned hours. When I think about Sleeper, I remember sitting beside my father, on a bus traveling across the Bay Bridge. Love and Death: The four Flanagans laughing their way across the Atlantic on a long, long ago charter flight from San Francisco to Dublin.