CANNES – Despite wind, rain and touchy family dynamics, Woody Allen had a good opening night at Cannes this year.
His new movie, "Café Society," a light romance set in 1930s Hollywood, received a modest standing ovation at the Grand Theatre Lumiere Wednesday night, where Allen attended the screening with his wife, Soon-Yi, as well as Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart, Blake Lively and Corey Stoll, who star in the film. ("Attended," mind you, in the loosest definition of the term: The Allens and Eisenberg didn't watch the movie, choosing instead to have a nosh upstairs in the filmmakers' lounge.)
Earlier that day, Allen's son Ronan created a splash when he published a front-page essay in the Hollywood Reporter, excoriating the film industry – and especially the entertainment press – for declining to bring up charges made by his sister Dylan that Allen sexually abused her when she was seven.
At a press lunch for "Café Society" on Thursday, when the filmmaker and his cast table-hopped and talked to reporters, most of the assembled journalists tiptoed around the allegations. But when they did come up, Allen gave his now-standard reply. "I never speak to that," Allen said when asked if he regrets that several fans have decided to boycott his films because of Dylan and Ronan's public statements. "I made my statement a long time ago in the New York Times, they gave me a lot of space and, you know, … I just think it's so silly, the whole thing. So no, it doesn't bother me. I don't think about it. I work."
He was similarly unfazed when a Variety reporter asked if he was offended the night before when, during the opening ceremony, a French comedian made a joke about Allen making so many movies in Europe despite the fact that he hadn't been convicted of rape in the United States (seemingly a dig not only at Allen but at Roman Polanski).
"It would take a lot to offend me," Allen replied. "What bothered me most last night was the length of the show before the movie."
"I am completely in favor of comedians making any jokes they want," Allen said to a question asked by Variety. "I am a non-judgmental or [non]-censorship person on jokes. I'm a comic myself and I feel they should be free to make whatever jokes they want."
In "Café Society," Eisenberg's character falls in love with a secretary, played by Stewart, who turns out to be having an affair with one of his relatives; at one point, he bemoans the fact that the love of his life has married his uncle, which technically makes her his aunt. The line gets a big laugh – not only because it's funny, but because of Allen's own complicated family relationships, wherein he married the daughter of his romantic partner, Mia Farrow, nearly 20 years ago.
Allen insists the real-life parallel is a coincidence. "I thought it was a funny joke," he explained simply. "It is a good joke and it is ironic and true. … I mean, if you think about it, [marrying Soon-Yi] would make Mia my mother-in-law, if you think about it from a technical point of view. These things happen all the time."
Although Allen didn't elaborate on what he meant by "these things," he pronounced himself perfectly at peace with filmgoers reading a double-meaning into the line. "With the audience, whatever gives them pleasure is a godsend to me," he said, adding, "When you write a film and make a film, if people are pleased with it, if they're moved by it, they're interested in it or laugh at it, that's the most you can hope for."
"Café Society" will arrive in theaters on July 15.