Something terrible happened to Dylan Farrow. Profoundly terrible – way beyond the borders of ordinary middle-class calamity.
The trouble is that none of us is ever likely to know exactly what.
Either she was sexually assaulted by Woody Allen at age 7 in the attic while she kept her eyes riveted to a toy train. Or she was brainwashed by her mother, Mia Farrow, and coached to accuse Woody Allen.
Either way, her childhood was a horror. And, to the dismay of us all, it refuses to go away.
Following tweets by Mia Farrow and her son Ronan on the inappropriateness of the Golden Globes honoring Woody Allen’s lifelong career (by, somewhat hilariously, giving him an award named after Cecil B. DeMille), Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas D. Kristof – a self-admitted friend of the Farrows, mother and son – came out on their side against Woody Allen in the Sunday New York Times. In doing so, he printed an astonishing document – an unprecedented open letter from Dylan Farrow detailing her accusations against Allen and the years of post-traumatic stress disorder and psychic pain it has caused her.
There was nothing statutory about what he did in that attic according to her story in Sunday’s Times. Nor was it sexual “molestation.” That long preceded it, as she tells it. What happened in that attic was sexual assault, plain and simple. Of a 7-year old girl.
Or, it was coaching by an enraged and scorned mother to claim that it was.
Dylan Farrow’s open letter in Sunday’s Times website (she calls herself Malone, is now 28 and married and living in Florida) ends thusly: “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you Emma Stone? Or you Scarlett Johannson? You knew me when I was a girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten me?”
It also makes another accusation against Woody Allen that we hadn’t encountered before – at least I hadn’t. Back then, she says now, “I didn’t know my father would use his sexual relationship with my sister to cover up the abuse he afflicted on me.”
In other words, the whole much-pulicized first flap over Woody Allen’s affair with Soon-Yi Previn – to whom he has now been married for 16 years – was originally a cover-up for his abuse of Dylan. So says Dylan.
Let’s be honest here: For movie critics and fans, this is, as they sometimes like to say on TV, above our pay grade.
Woody Allen has adamantly denied all of what Dylan says – with considerable vigor when there was a refusal to prosecute in Connecticut only because of Dylan’s tender age at the time.
The only two things I think I know for certain about the unholy mess of Woody Allen’s life with Mia Farrow and her kids are that: 1) when the Soon-Yi story hit the fan, there were reports everywhere from Farrow’s camp that on top of everything else, Soon-Yi had a borderline developmental disability 2) when Barbara Kopple’s documentary film about the tour of Woody Allen’s neo-trad jazz band “Wild Man Blues” came out, everyone could plainly see that Mrs. Woody Allen is not only as far as can be from that description, she functions, in effect, as the COO of Woody Allen Inc. making sure that his life works smoothly so that his art – movies, music, whatever – can flourish. It’s not an uncommon role for artistic wives, especially those of musicians.
All, then, that I know for sure about the ultimate in “he said, she said” horrors is that one of the contentions of the Farrow camp is a base canard.
After that, there is all kinds of horror to be contemplated and speculated about and nothing yet that any of us can know conclusively.
A panel of psychiatrists said nothing happened. A judge wanted it to go to court. A district attorney said, again, that Dylan was too tender for such a trial at the time.
Thus was ensured a perfect storm of ignorance, with gale-force charges and countercharges going on whenever the parties want.
Which, apparently, is very much this moment for the Farrow camp.
And which leads to the unavoidable question: “Why?”
After that, it’s a mosaic of information pieces that can be put together however you want.
For instance, Mia Farrow’s current frequent consort is novelist Philip Roth. The funniest film, by far, of Woody Allen’s last couple of decades was “Deconstructing Harry” in which Woody Allen plays a nasty and unpleasant hell-bound novelist most people see as a variation on Philip Roth.
Then there is this piece to be fit into the mosaic somehow: The voting deadline for the Oscars is the final Tuesday before the Sunday award show. In other words, Oscar voters can, if they want, delay marking their ballots for three more weeks.
At which time, the presumptive Best Actress winner by almost universal assay – Cate Blanchett for Allen’s film “Blue Jasmine” – could theoretically find her Oscar buried under the avalanche of bad vibes that the whole renewed horror tale is causing.
One could attribute that to continuing attempted vengeance from the Farrows. Those unusually paranoid and/or horrifically cynical could even attribute some of the renewed attention to some of those movie companies involved with Blanchett’s categorical competitors – which include Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Sandra Bullock, Judi Dench.
Another piece of the mosaic to be factored in somehow by the monstrously cynical is that Ronan Farrow’s afternoon talk show on MSNBC begins at 1 p.m. Feb. 24, and all of this attention on the horrors of the Allen/Farrow ménage certainly increases his visibility.
You don’t have to be cynical at all to note that Mia Farrow herself happened to let slip that Frank Sinatra may, in fact, be the real father of Ronan Farrow from a dalliance with his ex-wife Mia while he was very much married to Barbara Sinatra (who is still very much with us and collateral damage in all this).
Another piece of the mosaic is that because of the Soon-Yi business and Dylan Farrow’s allegations, there are those, especially women, all over the world who now refuse to see Woody Allen films.
At the same time, there are magazines willing to offer two-page spreads showing all the juicy roles for women in the last 25 years of Woody Allen movies.
A piece making the rounds all over the Internet called “Not So Fast” is by Robert B. Weide, who produced a Woody Allen documentary for PBS which presents a documented portrait of Allen as a victim of almost systematic disinformation. It began making the rounds before Dylan Farrow’s letter was printed in the Times.
It is all, as I said, an unholy mess.
It leaves us with a filmmaker, at 78, doing some of his best work in years while those once closest to him are actively engaged in killing off the affections of his audience.
It’s unprecedented. Charlie Chaplin and Fatty Arbuckle in the silent era don’t begin to parallel this.
As I said, something monstrous was done to Dylan Farrow. Heaven only knows, at the moment, who was the monster.