There are few directors quite as prolific as Woody Allen. He makes nearly a movie a year, and has since 1966 — many if not most of which have garnered critical acclaim. It makes sense that Allen has Hollywood admirers, but what these Allen loyalists seemingly ignore are the disturbing accusations made against him. Allen was accused of sexual abuse by his daughter Dylan Farrow in 1992, and though the charges were never pursued, Farrow and her family stand by the accusations. Still, Hollywood hasn’t taken away any power from Allen — he’s still making movies, and rounding up some of the biggest names to star in them. It seems that the only check on his power comes in the form of jokes, one of which was made by emcee Laurent Lafitte at the Cannes Film Festival, where he was introducing Allen’s film Café Society, starring Blake Lively. According to Variety, Lively was offended by the rape joke at Allen’s expense, but perhaps she should be offended by the director’s ability to work in Hollywood unscathed instead.
According to reports, Lafitte’s joke happened early on in the introduction of Café Society. Seemingly likening Allen to Roman Polanski, who fled the United States following a conviction for sexual assault, Lafitte praised Allen for making movies in Europe “even if you are not being convicted of rape in the U.S.” Naturally, the joke made the audience at Cannes uncomfortable — though Allen, never one to care much about what the media thinks of him, was unfazed. His leading lady Lively was offended, however, and told Variety so.
“I think any jokes about rape, homophobia or Hitler is not a joke… I think that was a hard thing swallow in 30 seconds. Film festivals are such a beautiful, respectful festivals of film and artists and to have that, it felt like it wouldn’t have happened if it was in the 1940s… It was more disappointing for the artists in the room that someone was going up there making jokes about something that wasn’t funny.”
Ordinarily, I would agree with Lively. Rape is not something to laugh about, and making a careless joke about it is insensitive to survivors everywhere. However, intentionally or not, Lafitte was doing something that I consider important: making sure that the Hollywood elite does not forget about Allen’s accusations. Because frankly, it really seems like they have. In fact, it was only on May 5, just days before the joke was made, that Farrow’s brother Ronan Farrow published a piece in The Hollywood Reporter stating that he believed his sister’s accusation and was disgusted by the willingness of the entertainment industry to ignore her alleged abuse. The fact that Allen can still operate in Hollywood, cast A-list actors and be universally praised is just one example of how we silence his accuser.
It’s disheartening that one of Hollywood’s brightest stars is more comfortable criticizing a joke at Allen’s expense than Allen himself. Allen will continue to do what he wishes in the industry, so I don’t see the harm in reminding the world of what he was accused of.