An era in film history seems to be ending quietly, with the news last week that Woody Allen’s “A Rainy Day in New York” will not open in theaters this year (or maybe ever), and the writer-director’s announcement that he is taking a break from the movie-a-year pace he has maintained since the 1970s.
Allen has been able to make movies at a rate unmatched by anyone else in the history of show business, despite losing his original sponsors – United Artists – along the way and having to bounce from financier to financier since the late 1980s. One can only imagine the support he must receive from his business partners to have a movie released by Sony Pictures Classics one year and Amazon Studios the next year, without ever interrupting his annual output.
While now departed peers like Stanley Kubrick slowed their output down to a trickle, or in Mike Nichols’ case, had to switch over to cable television for good projects, Allen kept rolling along, demanding and getting final cut on all of his movies, and controlling every aspect of their release. The director was also able to get the best actors to work on his films for bargain basement prices because of the prestige attached to being in a movie like “Vicky Christina Barcelona” or “Midnight in Paris.”
Even when the scandal erupted in 1992 over his relationship with Soon-Yi Previn and his lover Mia Farrow’s charges that he had molested their adopted daughter Dylan, Allen put a film out in the immediate wake of the controversy (“Husbands and Wives”) and he shot another one (“Manhattan Murder Mystery”) while he was being investigated on the molestation charges (an investigation that ended with no charges being filed against him).
In the case of “Manhattan Murder Mystery” Allen had to deal with his surprise that his long time leading lady Mia Farrow still expected to star in the movie despite the terrible charges she was making against him – one of the weirder elements in the whole scandal. The writer-director perhaps sealed his own fate – and launched a three-decade vendetta — when he replaced Farrow with Diane Keaton.
Allen will be 83 on December 1 and long past the age when many film directors’ careers have already ended, but it is unfortunate that he has become part of the collateral damage from the #MeToo movement. A case that was thoroughly investigated, and terminated without any charges, more than 25 years ago, has come back to haunt him without any new evidence, or anyone else coming out with new charges (as they did in the Harvey Weinstein case, where dozens of accusers went public).
I tend to agree with the actress Cherry Jones who, when pressed to say she regretted working with Allen on “Rainy Day,” replied, “There are those who are comfortable in their certainty. I am not. I don’t know the truth. When we condemn by instinct our democracy is on a slippery slope.”
This time last year, Allen was being honored with the closing night slot at the New York Film Festival for “Wonder Wheel” (below). Now, his most recent work has been, apparently, deemed unreleasable.
How the mighty have fallen.