Not long ago, I contacted a friend to ask if he was interested in seeing the new Woody Allen film, Magic in the Moonlight. His reply was terse, something to the effect that he would not support the work of a child molester, a reference I presume to Allen’s marriage to his adopted daughter. At the time of the wedding, Allen’s former wife, Mia Farrow, aired her objections in the media but in the eyes of the law, Allen had committed no crime. The marriage went forward and my friend, among others, never forgave him.
I’ve long held that an artist’s life should be kept apart from an appreciation of his or her work (Blogs 8/5/14, 8/14/14)). Many a genius has been guilty of crimes and misdemeanors for which they were condemned and even imprisoned. Caravaggio was accused of murder and exiled, Oscar Wilde imprisoned for homosexuality, Ezra Pound declared insane and incarcerated for his support of Mussolini while others, like Gertrude Stein and William Yeats, had their reputations tarnished because of their admiration for Adolf Hitler. The list would be lengthy if I were to be thorough, but my point is that the works of all these artists have survived scandal, putting history on my side. Art stands apart from its maker just as the rose that blooms in the garden never acknowledges the hands that planted it. Human failings, as writer Jed Perl notes, do not equate with artistic ones. (“Liberals Against Art,” by Jed Perl, The New Republic, August 25, 2014, pg. 49.)
As he also points out, art is freestanding and not a vessel into which the artist, his deeds and/or his epoch are poured. Art is the product of imagination with its own laws and logic (Ibid pg. 51) It is more akin to inspiration than a truth teller and does not so much reflect our existence as embellish it with revelatory shades of light and dark as if life were a chiaroscuro paining.
I agree with Perl, too, that beauty is a thing irreducible. We know it when we see it, though we are unable to measure, quantify or define it. It is more than something pleasing to the eye. It is a moment of intuition that makes us gasp as if we’ve caught a glimpse of the eternal.
But I’m getting carried away. All I wanted to say was that I regret my friend’s decision to condemn Allen’s art as well as the man. He’s a filmmaker who provides more moments of insights than failed ones. His art is worth my time.