Column: Can we separate the art from the artist?

I’m a movie nerd. That’s the first thing you need to know.Jason-Column2

I’m a fastidious detailer and curator of my enthusiasms. That’s the second thing you need to know.

Those things being the case, I maintain a top 10 list of my favorite movies of all time. It’s a living document; I’ve made changes to it over the years.

At present, Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall” is No. 10 on the list.

On Feb. 1, Dylan Farrow, 28, Allen’s adopted daughter with actress Mia Farrow, wrote on open letter published in the New York Times in which she challenged the world at-large, Hollywood in specific and some of his most recent and closest collaborators, to acknowledge Allen sexually abused her in 1992 when she was seven years old and treat him accordingly.

Allen received a lifetime achievement award from the Hollywood Foreign Press at this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Some on the Internet were quick to say Dylan Farrow’s accusation is nothing new; it was a major issue in the custody battle between Allen and Mia Farrow that ended in 1993. The couple split in 1992, at which time it was revealed Allen, 56 at the time, was in love with 21-year-old Soon-Yi Previn, Mia Farrow’s daughter, adopted prior to her relationship with Allen.

Mia Farrow was awarded custody of the couple’s three adopted children following the custody battle and Allen was denied visitation with Dylan. Connecticut prosecutors believed there was probable cause to believe Allen molested Dylan, but declined to charge him in order to spare Dylan the pain of a trial.

Allen married Previn in 1997.

While Dylan Farrow’s allegations may have been old news to some, particularly those who follow the personal lives of celebrities for sport, they were new to me and I’m not at liberty to do anything but believe her.

So now what?

If Allen raped Dylan Farrow in the attic of their Connecticut home as she describes in her open letter, does that mean “Annie Hall” isn’t at once the prototypical, atypical and deconstructionist romantic comedy?

No, I’d say it still is.

Does it mean that movie, or “Take the Money and Run” or “Manhattan Murder Mystery” are less fun or funny?

I’d have to say yeah, maybe it does.

And that’s the problem with trying to separate the art from the artist. We can do it, but, if we’re critically thinking, feeling human beings, we can’t help but let what we know about the people who create our great works creep into our thoughts as we partake in them.

In fact, I would say, as we consume and analyze the work of someone as artistically and critically revered as Allen, it is our duty to make the connections and ask the questions about what aspects of his life have informed and shaped the work.

As uncomfortable as it may be to do it, perhaps a new analysis of Allen’s films in light of Dylan Farrow’s open letter is a worthy endeavor, particularly those works created after 1992. What might someone like me, who didn’t know about the abuse until now, see that he didn’t see before?

Am I someone who’s going to take that journey and ask those questions?

After all, I knew Allen had fallen for Soon-Yi Previn at the time it was revealed, that didn’t stop me from delving into his older films in my earlier 20’s or going to see many of his moves since.

I know Roman Polanski raped a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicholson’s house in 1977, but it has never stopped me from enjoying “Chinatown,” “Death and the Maiden” or a number of Polanski’s other films and look at some of the subject matter there.

Most of what we’ve seen in the days following Dylan Farrow’s letter revolves around whether or not her allegations are true and whether or not, if true, Woody Allen deserves the accolades for his art he has received. I’m not interested in that debate because, as I said above, I’m not in a position to judge the accuracy of Dylan Farrow’s memory; I must accept it as she presents it to me.

And she has.

So now my relationship with Woody Allen’s films is different. Damaged? Certainly. Over? I must admit, probably not.

But that’s what comes with the passion of our enthusiasms. They can change before our eyes, even though they remain the same, and what they say to us and how we deal with them can, in fact, be colored by what we know about the people behind them.

As it should be?

Reach Jason at jason@hometwn.com and follow him Twitter @jasonchirevas