By John H. Foote
Having always believed Woody Allen is innocent of the accusations of child abuse leveled at him by his former partner Mia Farrow, reading his account of the events dealing with her vicious attacks, I am now even more confident of Allen’s innocence. Though her adopted son Moses spoke out against his mother and in absolute support of Allen it appears each time Allen has any degree of success Mia, Ronan or Dylan (the child he is accused of abusing) make new headlines rehashing what has been going on for nearly 30 years.
His superb new autobiography – “Apropos of Nothing” – is a biting, often very funny exploration of his life, specifically directing films, though he often veers off into the allegations Farrow brought against him after threatening she would ruin him. If there is anything I find stunning, these are the top two. First, top investigators of child abuse cleared him, not once but twice saying Dylan seemed rehearsed and it was likely the child was coached. Second, Allen took a polygraph (lie detector) five times and each time passed with flying colours, not a hint of deception. Mia Farrow? She refused to undergo a polygraph, something Allen’s attackers simply ignore.
Allen discusses the logic of doing what he has been accused of doing. In his fifties, with never a hint of abuse in his past, not a whiff of predatory behaviour, but he chooses at 51, in a home packed with his enemies who are watching his every move, to abuse this child he, by all accounts, adored? Does that make sense to you?
Little known is the story about Mia’s offer to make it all go away! She told Allen and his attorneys it would all stop in its tracks for a settlement of $7 million dollars. Knowing her career as an actress in Allen’s films was finished, she must have sought one last huge payday. Allen, maintaining his innocence, told her he would not pay one dime for any settlement as he knew, and more importantly, she knew that he was innocent.
The book explores the makings of his films but the spectre of Farrow hangs over the volume like an evil poltergeist.
As much as I loved the book, I would have liked more about the makings of his films, his writing process, his work with actors. While he is very honest about working with his muse Diane Keaton, has great words for Mira Sorvino, John Cusack and Kenneth Branagh, there are many other actors I would have enjoyed reading about. Meryl Streep in Manhattan (1979) for instance, or Dianne Weist in a number of films are barely touched upon.
He does go to great lengths to describe his friendships with Keaton, Mariel Hemingway, Scarlett Johansson and Emma Watson, all actresses he admires and calls friends. Each has been public in their staunch support of him against the vile accusations.
And finally, his marriage with Soon Yi, which has lasted nearly 30 years and he claims is the greatest friendship of his career. They adopted two daughters (think a court would allow a child modestor to adopt?) and devoted their lives to one another. She was never his daughter, she was an adult when they fell in love, and at the end of the day, the heart wants what the heart wants.
In the end, the book was a breezy read and, though entertaining, was never the intimate study of an artist I had hoped for. Do I know him better? Yes, I suppose, and I admire his strength of character for never, ever lashing back publicly at Mia Farrow, something she did not offer him.
A great read.
John H. Foote is a well-recognized Canadian film critic/historian who has been an active critic for 30 years. His deep love for the movies began at a very young age. He began his career as co-host of the popular TV show Reel to Real where he remained for nine years. While on TV he began dabbling in education, eventually ascending to Director of the Toronto Film School, where he also taught film history. After leaving the college to care for his wife, he returned to teaching at Humber College where he taught both Film History and Method Acting Theory. John has written two books: “Clint Eastwood – Evolution of a Filmmaker” and the upcoming “Spielberg – American Film Visionary”. He is currently working on two books, one about the films of the seventies and another on the films of Martin Scorsese. Through his career he has worked in TV, radio, print and the web. John has interviewed everyone in the industry (more than 300 interviews) except Jack Nicholson, he says sadly. Highlights include Martin Scorsese, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep Robert Duvall, Jane Fonda, Francis Ford Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow.