Before watching HBO’s new documentary mini-series “Allen vs. Farrow” you should be aware of the following premise: For the most part, older men are attracted to younger women. The question is to what extent young women carry their passion, and what are they willing to do in order to realize their fantasies. The esteemed docu-creators Kirby Dick and Amy Zering examine Woody Allen’s personal case, and come out with almost unequivocal conclusions: the legendary filmmaker and writer loves them too young, and has taken one step too far to express his criminal affection, allegedly pedophile.
There is something very misleading in the name of the mini-series “Allen vs. Farrow.” It would have made more sense to change the order and call it “Farrow vs. Allen” because Dick and Zering formulate throughout the four episodes of the series (the first episode aired yesterday on HOT8, Cellcom TV, and yes Doco) a serious and very convincing indictment against Allen, but the whole thing is brought up From the perspective of Mia Farrow who was his partner during the 1980s, and her adopted daughter Dylan Farrow who flooded her claims of sexual exploitation on the part of whoever was her adoptive father. In the public trial held for Allen on the small screen, home videos from Farrow’s personal archive are embedded, as well as recordings of phone calls she made to her ex-boyfriend amid the breakdown of their relationship. In addition to the in-depth interviews with Mia and Dylan, as well as with the thriving journalist Ronan Farrow (Farrow and Allen’s joint son), filmed character testimonies of Mia’s supportive friends (including musician Carly Simon) are presented. And on top of all that, an analysis was made of his films against the background of the suspicions. With all this evidence presented to us throughout the four chapters, it is impossible not to determine that he is guilty.
Apparently the picture of reality is a bit more complicated and twisted, but Dick and Zering, who have set themselves the goal as filmmakers to combat various phenomena of harassment and sexual assault through their films, do an excellent job of building the case against Allen. Although almost all of the evidence presented in the series is circumstantial, it is piled on top of each other on the way to conviction in the eyes of viewers. This is especially true when there is no one to protect him in front of the public. Alan naturally refused to cooperate with the production. In the absence of interviews with him or his associates, the episodes incorporate recorded audio clips of Alan reading his memoir Apropos of Nothing which came out in 2020. Like the honest dialogues he has authored in his many films over the years, so has his memoir, and in “Allen vs. Farrow” they serve as convicting evidence against him, even a guilty plea.
Dick and Zering’s great sin is the profiling they perform in Alan the writer, director and actor and project from his work on his conduct as an individual. To present scenes from “Manhattan” or “Husbands and Wives” dealing with the relationship between an older man and a young woman as a photograph of the corrupt mind behind them, is a desirable but unfair move. And so is a delve into the various script versions, in which Allen changes the description of the female characters he has designed. Can the critics who have taken it upon themselves to analyze Allen’s personality based on his films also decide that Vladimir Nabokov was a pedophile because of his book “Lolita”, or that Quentin Tarantino is a serial killer in the making because of “Kill Bill”? They may have wanted to prove his fondness for young women here, but we have already agreed that this is not a great discovery. Even Nabokov married Vera Slonim who was 13 years younger than him, and Trentino was married to Daniela Pick two decades younger than him.
Even in Allen’s case, his very public personal life dictates his preferences, with or without the films. Farrow shared a mediated relationship with Frank Sinatra in her youth (she was 21, he was 51), but began her romantic relationship with Allen at a relatively late age – 35. The two had a restrained independent relationship, with Allen insisting they live in different homes, and also maintaining Distance from her adopted children out of a common understanding that he does not want to be a father. Dad no, but yes a lover. In the early 1990s the world was struck by astonishment with the revelation of Allen’s affair with Farrow’s adopted daughter, Sun Yi. In “Allen vs. Farrow,” Farrow recounts how she was the one who suggested that the two spend more time together amid the mental distress of the adopted daughter from Korea. But what began as a joint outing at Madison Square Garden at the New York Knicks’ games, continued as a passionate flirtation.
The Sun Yi issue cannot be ignored, it is an amazing turn that has stirred the world of culture and gossip columns in real time, but it also has significance for Alan and Farrow’s shared biography, as well as for the general context – the filmmaker’s fondness for women who are not only very young. But the affair with Sun Yi affected Alan and Farrow’s crumbling relationship that became suspicious and hostile after 12 years of marriage. Allen’s camp clings to this suspicion and hostility as an excuse for what they have over the years called the false plots of a jealous woman. Here, Dick and Zering stand next to Farrow, bringing to the screen the audio-visual armor in their possession to delve into the real affair that is at the center of “Allen vs. Farrow”: the sexual exploitation of Dylan Farrow. The findings of their investigation are clear: Allen touched his daughter against her will, and it is not a fabrication of the girl’s feverish mind or a misrepresentation directed by her vengeful mother.
There’s something problematic about trying to pack Sun Yi’s case with this Dylan Farrow into Woody Allen’s already packed suitcase of secrets. The docu frames the two stories together, as if they were overlapping. But while Sun Yi is the director’s forbidden love (and fucking to admit) with a young woman of consent age, Dylan was a seven-year-old girl under his care. In retrospect Sun Yi is married to Allen to this day and goes out in his defense, while Dylan denies it, publicly attacked him in an open letter to the New York Times in 2014, and today speaks honestly to the camera about the trauma he caused her. Sun Yi’s story may stand as proof of Allen’s affection for young women, but Dylan’s case ostensibly proves that his attraction extends into the terrible realm of pedophilia, and that he not only amuses nauseating fantasies but also implements them. At least that’s what his adopted daughter claims, restoring the forbidden contact with her father in the attic of her mother’s pastoral village in Connecticut.
All the details regarding the case in question from 1992 were presented in detail in the columns published by Dylan, but these float again in the daughter’s voice, this time when she is exposed and in pain in front of the camera. It is impossible to remain indifferent to these moments, and to the distress she feels. Natural distress because of those unbearable twenty minutes in the arms of her father who touched her in forbidden places, and no less severe distress because of the demonstration of the system’s distrust of her and her version. “Allen vs. Farrow” also touches on the criminal negligence of the system that closed the investigation file opened against Allen. Prosecutor Frank Mako of Connecticut explains that he preferred not to add to the plight of little Dylan as a witness in court, while in New York the system seems to have simply preferred to ignore so as not to embarrass one of its best builds, the cultural symbols of the big city.
Over the years, Alan and his lawyers have questioned Dylan’s testimony and insisted there was no sexual contact with her. Dick and Zering invest a lot in dismantling these versions, sometimes combining home videos in which Woody shares private paternal moments with his daughter (e.g. when the two are having fun in the pool, a moment that seems creepy in this context). But unintentionally, an unexpected, somewhat puzzling discovery emerges about Farrow’s conduct. Whoever has been his partner for so many years, and encouraged a close relationship with her adopted children, is revealed as someone who continued to cling to her relationship with him even against the background of the suspicions that arose. She continued to be in open communication with him even after the revelation of the forbidden affair with Sun Yi, but her conduct is sad and outrageous after the revelation about the forbidden contact with Dylan. At first she seems to believe herself, or prefers to believe in Woody instead of Dylan. Moreover, in a recorded conversation between them, she apologizes to him for having a psychologist who spoke to Dylan report this to the police.
Even more surprising is the conduct of the two in front of the media. After the case is opened, Mia Farrow has tried her best to keep the affair out of the headlines, and even begs Allen not to cooperate with reporters (perhaps because most of them were perceived as his loyal supporters). Whereas Allen, contrary to all expectations, goes out and instead of trying to dissolve the story, he goes back and floods it into the public agenda as a means of pressure on his ex-partner. This is a surprising point that is not addressed enough, but rather clarifies how important the Mi-To movement is for public discourse. Today, as this story re-emerges twenty years later, the creators have turned upside down: Mia and Dylan speak freely in front of the cameras, while Allen is the one who goes underground. In a statement, he denied all allegations against him, claiming that “everything is a lie.” We may not have heard the last word from him on this subject, but it is clear that at the moment he prefers to remain silent. Maybe in the hope that the affair will return to your archives. good luck with that.
After fiercely opposing the effects of sexual exploitation in the Catholic Church (Twitst of Faith), the military (The Invisible War), the campuses (The Hunting Ground) and the music industry (On The Record), Dick and Zering continue their just war of attrition against various predators. This time they are directing their efforts towards one person, fragile-looking but powerful in the film industry. The series they created is a bit immersed in gossip, but it allows us a glimpse into the problematic intimacy of Allen and Farrow’s family lap. It matters less who is against whom. The docu takes one side sweepingly and it seems that in the Mi-Tu era it is impossible otherwise. Alan is on the (and overly Jewish) list of Harvey Weinstein, Roman Polanski, Brett Ratner, and Brian Singer. His supporters and supporters in Hollywood are also tainted. It’s hard to see how 85-year-old Alan comes out of this in public, or in person – how he can look at himself in the mirror when Dylan’s teary-eyed character pops up on screen again and again.