Have Dylan Farrow’s recently resurfaced allegations of sexual assault against Woody Allen soured France’s fondness for the filmmaker? Allen’s movies generally overindex here, where he is among the pantheon of cherished auteurs. But when Wonder Wheel opened this week, it did so selling the fewest tickets on Day 1 of any of the director’s films as far back at least as 2001. At 20,147 admissions, it was No. 2 for the day among new titles but fell short of the last 16 Allen-helmed movies, which have averaged over 45K.
Wonder Wheel received 3.4 stars from both the press and the public, yet something clearly was amiss at the turnstiles. The recent media and social network glare on Allen prompted his longtime French distributor, Stéphane Célérier, to pen a two-page editorial for French weekly Le Point. In it, the notoriously press-shy Célérier compares the current situation to that of the Salem witches.
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“While the sordid practices of several influential men in Hollywood deserve to be widely denounced and judged, 70 years after the Hollywood blacklist, the campaign of slanders and denunciations is beginning again: history stutters, vitriol spreads again and destinies are broken as if the lessons of anti-communism hysteria had not been learned,” he writes.
Célérier’s Mars Films is a powerhouse distributor and has released Allen’s films for the past 10 years. In his editorial, he runs through the history of the claims against the Oscar winner, the related investigations and their reported outcomes, in an effort to “re-establish the facts.”
Notes the veteran distributor, “I have worked with Woody Allen for 10 years. He is an immense artist… To my eyes he has always been an incredibly intelligent, discreet and courteous man. But his talent and his creative effervescence don’t make him a saint. The admiration that I have for the man and the filmmaker is real, but have nothing to do with the object of my action whose only goal is to question.”
He further writes he is “stunned by the unspooling of hate that the Woody Allen affair has provoked, particularly in the U.S. and on social networks. … You get the feeling we are evolving in a world without nuance, without calm debate regarding a man, I remind you, who was declared innocent in 1993. … The hatred today has reached ignominious summits.”
“Today it seems complicated, if not impossible, to be convinced of the innocence of Woody Allen without inciting violent reactions that will accuse me of sacrificing the cause of women on the altar of economic interests. Classic in this climate of virtuous indignation, but so unfair.”
It is “fascinating and staggering to hear actresses and actors turn Woody Allen into M le Maudit (the titular child killer in Fritz Lang’s 1931 film). Either they are being manipulated and are not aware of the weight of their remarks, or they are absolutely cynical and seek to exploit the current media frenzy in order to look good themselves, which would be even more terrible,” opines the executive.
He also suggests that the “attacks” are “more a matter of settling family accounts.” But, he believes that doing so “at a moment when the words of women who have been sexually abused are finally liberated in a magnificent healthy movement is not only to show shameless opportunism but especially, in my opinion, to flout the dignity of the true victims.”
Célérier takes care to note that he considers pedophilia “one of the most monstrous crimes that exists” and condemns all violence inflicted on others, “and singularly on a person in a position of weakness.”
He states, “It seems evident to me that Woody Allen should not be placed in the same category as the sexual predators recently denounced by le tout Hollywood, and he shouldn’t finish out his days as a pariah.”
He calls on “citizens and the media in particular to study the facts before judging” Allen and “exercise restraint and discernment in their judgement of a human being who has never been the focus of any conviction.” But, he adds, “In a time when outrage and diatribe are substitutes for analysis, where the speed of execution or the people’s court of social networks is responsible for rendering expeditious justice, I am quite aware that my request is almost illusory.”
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