Can you truly separate a director from his works?

Joe Holloran gives us his view on one of the most divisive questions in entertainment

Joe Holloran
30th October 2017
Director Woody Allen has received many allegations about sexual abuse. Image: Flickr
The recent revelations about Harvey Weinstein have been circulating repeatedly on TV and print news for the last few weeks, as more and more women bravely come forward and expose him for who he was.

In the past Hollywood has been dogged by accusations of a ‘casting couch’ culture, wherein aspiring young actors (see Coreys Feldman and Haim) and actresses are subjected to behaviour ranging from intimidation and harassment to rape and blackmail. Weinstein proves that these days are not long gone, and Hollywood is not as open and progressive as we would like to think.

Abysmal director Michael Bay was accussed of inappropriate behaviour by Transformers star Megan Fox. Image:Wikimedia

An age-old question has resurfaced in the wake of these allegations. Yes Weinstein’s actions were abhorrent but should that fact block us from enjoying the films he was involved in making? The initial response to this question is to ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were. Weinstein is foul, so his works must be foul. However, the uncomfortable question must be asked ‘Can you separate art, and artist,’?

Weinstein was a producer of films. A powerhouse of the commercial side of the industry and a star maker, a man of immense power. But, he was not involved directly in the creative process of film production through his companies Miramax and The Weinstein Company. In other words, Weinstein bought the canvas, the space and paid the artist, but his tainted hands did not once touch the brush. Because of this distance, the line becomes more blurred. Miramax produced Pulp Fiction, but Tarantino wrote and directed it. It is his film. His art.

Roman Polanski. A man whose real-life actions are far more horrific than anything he has put on screen. Image:Wikimedia

Over the years there have been numerous claims made against directors themselves. The most prominent example when thinking about questionable directors is the case of Woody Allen. What Allen did was arguably immoral, but not illegal. Other such cases include Michael Bay’s creepy behaviour toward Megan Fox, Stanley Kubrick’s psychological abuse of Shelly Duval or the rumours surrounding X-Men and The Usual Suspects director Bryan Signer and Kids cult-director Larry Clark. The alleged criminality of these filmmakers has not yet been settled and may never be.

The most painful case for me personally is that of Roman Polanski. As the creator of both Rosemary’s Baby and The Ninth Gate, Polanski’s art is highly regarded among fans of religious and psychological horror, such as myself. But, Polanski is a total, foul, creep. He admitted to having raped a thirteen-year old girl in 1977, he even plead guilty in court in Switzerland before fleeing to the States. Perhaps this is deflection of blame on my part, but I think retrospective degrading of art is more complicated than what action to take once the crime is known.

But I suppose when one takes into consideration the recent revelations about some of the people running the business, perhaps it is not too surprising that they are more willing than others to turn a blind-eye to claims, and even confessed crimes.

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