Allen V. Farrow
Directors: Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick
A gripping four-part, close to an hour each, Disney + Hotstar documentary, Allen V. Farrow, is a tell-all tale of a man whom the world worshipped, and whose films – right from Annie Hall to Manhattan to Bullets Over Broadway to his more recent outings like Vicky Christina Barcelona to Match Point to Midnight in Paris to You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger (with Frieda Pinto) to Blue Jasmine to A Rainy Day in New York – had such a magical quality about them that the man behind, Woody Allen, of course, became the darling of just about everybody. Did Allen, now 85 and still creating a movie every year, take advantage of this?
Maybe he did, maybe he did not, but two of his misdemeanours pushed him into a dark, dark pit. First, his romantic affair with his partner, Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, came as a rude shock to a world that had been treating him like demigod. Second, the allegation of molesting another daughter, Dylan, when she was a little girl would have got his fans furious, not to think of Mia and how hurting it must have been for her. The pain and suffering expressed by Mia and Dylan, now an adult, have been told in a very hard way. It seems ugly, and it is very difficult to look away from this supposedly ugly charge of child molestation.
The documentary is brutal to the core, and shows very little sympathy for the Woody who stands and says, ‘no, no, I never did this.’ Much like Roman Polanski, who was accused of having sex with a 13-year-old decades ago and whose shadow still stalks him, and the allegations against Michael Jackson which hover over his grave, perhaps not letting him rest in peace, the cloud around Allen appears to be engulfing him more tightly than ever before.
Shot mostly in Farrow’s Connecticut home, where she lives with her biological and adopted children, the movie talks about Dylan’s damning confession as a child. This includes the child saying she was inappropriately touched by Allen, but in 1992, when she had grown up, the prosecutor refused to take up her case although he felt that there was something which Allen was hiding.
The world is not going to easily forget Dylan Farrow, for the world believes that Allen had done something wrong to her. As a child, one can understand how terrified she must have been about his behaviour.
Early on, the documentary runs through the hunky-dory Allen-Farrow relationship. They were never married but were together, though living in separate homes, for a long time. Her compulsive need to take care of children is highlighted; she has had 14, some biological, some adopted. Some did not survive, and her marriage to Frank Sinatra when she was 21 is told in passing.
As for Allen, the directors do not touch upon his family, only talk about his cinema.
A former girlfriend of his, Christina Englehardt, also testifies against him. She was 17, when she met him.
We learn – I think we know about this – Allen’s work, Manhattan, has him essaying a 42-year-old man having an affair with 17-year-old Mariel Hemingway. Nobody, as the documentary avers, batted an eyelid. Not even when Englehardt, testified against him.
But let us be fair. Allen V. Farrow is her story. I felt some kind of balance was missing. But, yes, will we ever know the truth, the actual truth? People in the entertainment world turn out to be very different from what they try so hard to be.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran is a movie critic and author of a biography of Adoor Gopalakrishnan)