But Allen is far from a pariah in France, where — until recently, at least — artists have usually been given carte blanche to live their lives however they please insofar as their work is judged to have value. Allen’s most recent film, “A Rainy Day in New York,” was not released in the United States, but it was released in France.
His memoir may be, too.
Manuel Carcassonne, director of Éditions Stock, a French affiliate of Hachette that had acquired the French rights to Allen’s book, vowed to pursue the project regardless of his U.S. counterpart’s decision. (When Hachette passed on the Allen project, it returned the rights to Allen, who may choose to sell them elsewhere.)
“The American situation is not ours,” Carcassonne said in an interview with France’s Le Point magazine Monday. “Woody Allen is a great artist, filmmaker, writer, and his New York Jewish humor can still be read in every line of this autobiography — in self-mockery, modesty, and the art of disguising the tragic in comedy.”
“It’s sad that this decision was made — sad for the freedom of expression — but perfectly understandable in the American context.”
The “American context” may be different, but what might be thought of as the “French context” is also changing, and fast.
In early January, France was stunned by the publication of “Le Consentement” — “Consent” — a memoir by the Parisian publisher Vanessa Springora about her alleged relationship with the famous French writer Gabriel Matzneff in the 1980s, when she 13 and he was in his 50s.
For years, Matzneff described his exploits with underage girls and boys in his work, whose fans included even former president François Mitterrand.
But it’s 2020, and the #MeToo movement continues to reshape notions about sexual abuse, harassment and consent. Many in France no longer seem to view the writer as a sacred figure, and the art may no longer transcend the artist. In the wake of the outcry that followed the publication of Springora’s memoir, a Paris court charged Matzneff in mid-February with promoting the sexual abuse of children.
There is also the case of Roman Polanski, the French film director who fled the United States for Europe after being charged with drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in the 1970s. (Polanski pleaded guilty only to unlawful sex with a minor and fled before his sentencing.)
The French establishment has tended to defend him as a brilliant director whose art should speak for itself. But those days also may be over.
Polanski won the top award last month at France’s César motion picture awards for “J’accuse,” his film about the Dreyfus affair, the wrongful conviction of a French military captain in the late 19th century because he was Jewish. When Polanski won the award, a number of actors walked out of the ceremony.
One of them, Adèle Haenel, shouted “Bravo, pedophilia” as she left — a moment that generated much social media buzz.
In the United States, the campaign against Allen’s book gained momentum after statements from Dylan Farrow and her brother, Ronan Farrow, the prominent journalist and Allen’s estranged son.
“A publisher that would conduct itself in this way is not one I can work with in good conscience,” Ronan Farrow said in a statement.
But Carcassonne sees France as a different environment.
“France was not the place of family quarrels between Woody Allen and his former partner Mia Farrow, nor with Ronan Farrow,” he told Le Point. “The French public will decide, as it has decided by going to see Woody Allen’s last film, which could not be released in the United States.”
“To publish is to attach oneself with respect to the notion that everyone can express themselves, within the limits of the law, that talent can be defended, that the notion of author is supported.”