Cannes 2016 opened with Woody Allen’s Cafe Society, a film that encompasses his usual blend of comedy and drama. Wednesday evening’s gala screening was attended by Blake Lively, Kristen Stewart, and the film’s other stars, but was overshadowed by son Ronan Farrow’s scathing guest column in the Hollywood Reporter.
Roman Farrow’s column was published before Woody Allen took to the stage with cast members to answer press questions. The L.A. Times called the incident “an elephant that filled the room” and “dramatically awkward” in a piece on the Cafe Society media conference that began literally minutes after Ronan Farrow’s diatribe hit the internet. Woody Allen was joined at the Cannes media conference by stars Kristen Stewart, Jesse Eisenberg, and Blake Lively.
In his piece, Ronan Farrow, himself a journalist, accused the media of helping Allen to bury the allegations of sexual abuse by his sister Dylan. The sexual abuse allegations against Woody Allen were first raised in 1992 during his divorce from Mia Farrow and were eventually dropped, unresolved, after the pressure on Dylan built to the point of concern to both her mother and the court. The story hit the media again in 2014 when Dylan wrote a piece on her ordeal that was published in the New York Times.
Ronan names several large media outlets in his column, including the Hollywood Reporter itself and L.A. Times, as being part of what he called a “self-perpetuating spin machine” that silences voices like Dylan’s in favor of powerful men in the industry like Woody Allen.
In what has to be an unintentional echo of Ronan Farrow’s message, none of the media at the Cannes conference raised the issue of sexual abuse at all. Master of ceremonies Laurent Lafitte came the closest to addressing the Woody Allen controversy directly during the opening ceremony.
“It’s very nice that you’ve been shooting so many movies in Europe, even if you are not being convicted for rape in the U.S.”
The Paris audience gasped at the French comedian’s remark, according to a report in Variety.
Cannes 2016 and Woody Allen: Controversy or Films?
As the piece in the L.A. Times points out, allegations of sexual abuse against Woody Allen have been much debated on other occasions, and Cannes 2016 as an event is, of course, supposed to be about the films.
However, along with the setting of Cannes as a film festival, the scenario does raise many questions about the nature of entertainment journalism and self-censorship of the media. Surely, after the deliberate and provocative timing of Ronan’s piece, questions about the allegations were at least on the minds of all the journalists present. Yet still, no questions asked. Ronan comments on the phenomenon in his Hollywood Reporter piece.
“That kind of silence isn’t just wrong. It’s dangerous. It sends a message to victims that it’s not worth the anguish of coming forward. It sends a message about who we are as a society, what we’ll overlook, who we’ll ignore, who matters and who doesn’t.”
Cannes 2016 carries on
Other notable features about the 2016 Cannes Film Festival day one include noticeably heightened security amid fears of terrorist disruptions, with the festival opening as it does just six months after the infamous Paris attacks.
Despite the opening night glamour and perhaps in spite of the Wood Allen controversy, Cafe Society drew less than enthusiastic reviews, according to a CBC report. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg as a boy from Brooklyn working for his uncle (played by Steve Carell,) a high-powered Hollywood agent. Woody Allen’s film is set in Los Angeles in the 1930s, a period the 80-year-old director has notably been fond of in the past. Some of his best known films, such as The Purple Rose Of Cairo and Bullets Over Broadway, were set during that period.
Brushing off an awkward opening and the Woody Allen controversy, Cannes 2016 is set to continue to May 22, 2016.
[Image by Thibault Camus/AP Photo]