Is It OK to Watch a Woody Allen Film?

Melissa Silverstein, founder of the Athena Film Festival and recipient this year of the Ms. Foundation for Women Marie C. Wilson Emerging Leader Award, is founder of the powerful blog Women and Hollywood. Though this year’s Cannes film festival was rife with commentary about how few women are recognized for their work behind the cameras, while focusing on the new Woody Allen film “Café Society,” Silverstein delivered a sharper critique, focusing on the abuse accusations against Allen recently revived by two of his children:

Allen’s problems with women seem obvious to me from his artistic work alone. The last film of his I saw was “Blue Jasmine,” and I made an exception because I was desperate to see Cate Blanchett. While her performance was indeed Oscar-worthy, I hated the film, because I hate how Allen portrays women in our culture: as objects and not subjects, even when the women are the central subjects of his films.

In the press conference at Cannes on Wednesday, Allen was asked if he would ever make a movie with a powerful older female lead and younger male. He replied: “It’s a perfectly valid comic idea.” What year is he living in?

This one, it turns out. Actresses still line up to work with him, even those who proudly self-identify as feminists. Kristen Stewart, one of the stars of “Café Society,” said the allegations against Allen gave her pause but, after discussing it with co-star Jesse Eisenberg, she decided, “If we were persecuted for the amount of shit that’s been said about us that’s not true, our lives would be over.”

I would like to counter society’s seeming determination to disbelieve victims. And I wish the film industry would too. Address the clear bias against hiring women directors and executives. Make sure films pass the Bechdel Test. Refuse to buy tickets to films made by people with assault accusations against them. Make that behavior and worldview unacceptable. I will start by not seeing “Café Society” and urge others to do likewise.

From “Why I won’t be seeing Woody Allen’s new film,” The Guardian, May 12, 2016.