Crimes and mis­de­meanors in an Allen anal­y­sis

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Richard Mor­gan’s Jan. 7 Out­look es­say about Woody Allen, “Mak­ing art out of lech­ery,” was deeply dis­hon­est. Mor­gan talked in present tense about “an 82-year-old’s fix­a­tion with 18-year-olds,” yet Mor­gan mostly dis­cussed work Allen wrote at least 40 years ago.

Mor­gan said any Allen movie could be ti­tled “A Woman Gets Ob­jec­ti­fied by a Man.” “An­nie Hall”? “Zelig”? “The Pur­ple Rose of Cairo”? “Mid­night in Paris”? Mor­gan dis­torted “The Kugel­mass Episode,” omit­ting how it lam­poons Kugel­mass — who’s see­ing Madame Bo­vary. If “c’est moi” was writ­ten near Kugel­mass’s di­a­logue, per­haps Allen con­sid­ered hav­ing Kugel­mass say that in Yonville.

Allen is right that this #MeToo move­ment can be­come a witch hunt; proof is what Se­nate Democrats did to now-for­mer se­na­tor Al Franken (D-Minn.). Judy Klass, Nash­ville

Richard Mor­gan’s es­say on Woody Allen ob­vi­ously was trad­ing on the sen­si­tiv­ity of the mo­ment to men’s abuse of un­der­age women. He men­tioned Allen’s al­leged abuse of Dy­lan Far­row, and the re­ver­ber­a­tions from that note are meant to wash over ev­ery other in­stance of Allen film­ing or writ­ing about women. No other real case of abuse is men­tioned, though he came up with one imag­ined sce­nario of sex­ual ha­rass­ment (against Nati Abas­cal).

The au­thor said Allen’s pri­vate notes show an “ob­ses­sion” with young women but of­fered only a cou­ple of men­tions of women ages 16 to 18, a mea­ger har­vest from those 56 boxes of Allen’s sketches reach­ing across 57 years of his life. That’s not ob­ses­sion. The au­thor says Allen writes “Freudian” scripts, but the big word just sits there re­ver­ber­at­ing darkly.

And per­haps the cheap­est of shots: The ob­jec­ti­fy­ing of a woman by a man, “in [Allen’s] view, is the pin­na­cle of art, its truest call­ing and high­est pur­pose.” No ex­am­ple dis­cussed.

Mor­gan worked with snarky com­ments, in­nu­endo and dis­tor­tion. A short list of Os­car-nom­i­nated fe­male roles be­came “a nest­ing-doll joke . . . Allen used [Diane] Keaton and the oth­ers . . . [as] an Os­car lure shiny enough to blind as­pir­ing acolytes to his dark­ness.” Des­per­ate for wit, he aimed this cheap shot at one of Allen’s real ac­com­plish­ments: the cre­ation of com­plex fe­male char­ac­ters with a range of in­ter­est­ing per­son­al­i­ties and des­tinies that ap­pealed to and, in some cases, made great ac­tresses.

Mor­gan’s judg­ments were crude, his wit shal­low (“gar­den of earthly deletes”). He has re­duced a film­maker of depth and wit to a misog­y­nis­tic fetishist. His ar­ti­cle was nei­ther film crit­i­cism nor jour­nal­ism, just op­por­tunis­tic. Stephen Jaeger, Bur­bank, Calif.

Woody Allen is not unique among artists who have ex­plored the ap­par­ently time­less theme of ag­ing men yearn­ing for younger women (and ag­ing women ob­serv­ing this melan­cholic phe­nom­e­non). Do­ing so does not make him a lecher, a term that, as with many other ep­i­thets, has lost its power through agen­dadriven overuse.

Allen and some of the ac­tors who have ap­peared in his films have earned the re­spect of his au­di­ences and his peers be­cause he has ex­plored that theme with hu­mor, irony, poignancy and a deft di­rec­to­rial skill. What’s clear is that Richard Mor­gan ap­proached the Allen archives with pros­e­cu­to­rial in­tent and with an eye on the mar­ket for such un­nu­anced and in­sult­ing por­tray­als. Kerry Snow, Col­lege Park


Woody Allen in 2016 in Cannes, France.

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