In 1993, a documentary was released about film director Leni Riefenstahl entitled, “The Wonderful Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl”. According to Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The Wonderful_ Horrible) the idea for the film “was born from an idea of Riefenstahl herself, who… decided to commission a documentary about her life.” Although many directors turned down the opportunity to make the film, it eventually was produced and received an Emmy. About the documentary, the late film critic Rodger Ebert observed: “This movie is fascinating in so many different ways: As the story of an extraordinary life, as the reconstruction of the career of one of the greatest of film artists, as the record of an ideological debate, as a portrait of an amazing old woman.”
Her Wikipedia profile noted that she had a lifelong companionship with her cameraman starting when she was 60 years of age and he 20. In this aspect, her life had a parallel to Woody Allen, in that Allen in his late fifties, started a relationship with a woman around 20 years of age. In Allen’s case though, it was his girlfriend’s daughter. Riefenstahl differed with Allen in other ways. Unlike Allen, Riefenstahl was Adolph Hitler’s leading propaganda film maker and a friend of the Führer. Unlike Riefenstahl, Allen cast Howard Cosell in two of his movies.
In 1954, Riefenstahl released her feature film “Tiefland”, which was shown at the Cannes film festival in France. France of course being a country occupied by Germany less than a decade before, with the horrors of the war still fresh on people’s minds. Most likely, new information about the Holocaust was still being disseminated. The works of Riefenstahl live on. In my college film history class in the 1970’s, we viewed and discussed her classic Nazi propaganda film “Olympia.”
A year before the Riefenstahl documentary, it was discovered that Woody Allen became romantically involved with his girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughter, Soon Yi Previn. Previn was age 21 at the time. Following Farrow’s discovery of the relationship, she charged that Allen had molested his step daughter Dylan Farrow. Allen was cleared of the charges. Woody survived both scandals and his filmmaking career continued.
A quarter of the century after the original child abuse charges were made, they were back in the news. I published an article on this website a short time ago, entitled: “If Woody Allen was Innocent, Why Wasn’t Mia Farrow Held Accountable.” The title states the main thesis of the article.
Since the time of the article, there has been another new development. The release of Allen’s current movies was cancelled and his film directing career may well be over. But was the charge of child sexual abuse any more than an angry woman seeking revenge for a terrible betrayal? I think the facts show it is very unlikely.
If Allen was capable of such behavior, for what possible reason would he wait until after the relationship with Soon-Yi was revealed? This being the period when behavior would be most scrutinized by his family and the public. It also would entail a a major coincidence, in that Allen would have committed this crime at just the time Mia Farrow had reason for revenge.
As I noted in my previous article, Allen apparently was totally cooperative with police and didn’t hide from discussing the charges. He took and passed a lie detector test, as well as took a battery of psychological tests. In addition, after Farrow’s claims of child abuse, he filed for sole custody of his adopted children, for which he was denied. Filing for custody meant even stricter investigation of Allen. How many guilty people would file for custody under such circumstances? Furthermore, in a 1993 “Sixty Minutes” interview about the abuse claims, Allen noted that a few months before the alleged incident with Dylan, Mia Farrow gave him a glowing recommendation about adopting his younger children, for which he was granted.
Farrow was not asked to take a lie detector test at the time of the investigation. This is a repugnant sexist practice in itself. For what reason can we justify the accuser be given less scrutiny than the accused? Allen was exonerated of the charges against him. Why didn’t Farrow then volunteer to take psychological tests and a lie detector test as Allen did? Wouldn’t a mother do anything to stop a potential child abuser from having access to her children? Nor did she ever take up the “Sixty Minutes” offer to tell her side of the story. This is despite the fact that the program stated that the evidence seemed to support Allen’s contentions. Viewing the current circumstances, it is now time that the public demands she subjects herself to such scrutiny.
The fact that Dylan’s brother, journalist Ronan Farrow, is supporting Dylan, received a lot of attention. Ronan, was four years old at the time of the alleged incident. Mia Farrow mentioned she was reluctant for her daughter to make her recent statements about sexual abuse. Is this evidence that she was not out to get Allen? Not if the allegations are false, since this brings the case out in the open again.
The oldest Farrow child in the house at the time of the alleged crime was Moses Farrow, then 14 years old. He vouched for Allen’s innocence in the matter. Moses a psychotherapist himself, also noted that the typical child abusers has multiple victims. Moses observed, that despite the wide public scrutiny given to Allen, there are no sexual misconduct allegations against Allen before or after the claims by Dylan Farrow.
Dylan claimed that Allen molested him in the attic, with an electric train running at the time. Moses Farrow described the attic as an unfit place to be in. As for a train he said: “The idea that the space could have accommodated a functioning electric train set, circling around the attic, is ridiculous”
Perhaps the house is still there and it is possible to discover the truth in regard to the attic. Maybe there are other new facts that can be learned that are relevant. Now is the time for whatever information that is available to be examined. In addition, Mia Farrow needs to follow Allen’s example of facing scrutiny. If she successfully passes a lie detector test and goes through psychological testing as Allen did, we have an issue worth debating.
Feminists are outraged that the Me Too movement is being compared to a witch-hunt. In the McCarthy era, writers and directors were kept from making films due to alleged claims about them. Many of the claims were from behaviors from years earlier. But how many are a quarter of a century before, like the ones Allen was exonerated from? Those who want to support the idea that indeed there is not a witch hunt, need to demand a true open inquiry into the truth.
Following her movie “Tiefland”, Riefenstahl did go on to publish books of photography as well as books about her life. However, she did not get another of her films shown until 2002. Will Woody Allen be as fortunate? Or, will he be denied that chance due to unsubstantiated allegations introduced by a woman who had reasons to have a personal vendetta against him?
NCFM Mr. Manners, Will Woody Allen Suffer a Worse Fate than Leni Riefenstahl
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