Cannes nixes Woody Allen’s widely anticipated 50th film

Only a couple of short weeks ago, online rumors swirled about the possibility of Woody Allen’s new movie, the Paris-shot Coup de Chance, competing at the Cannes Film Festival. Feedback from those who had seen the film was ecstatic, and it seems that Coup de Chance would have been a strong contender even had it not held the distinction of being the fiftieth work of cinema that one of the world’s most admired directors has brought to fruition.

Moviegoers at Cannes no doubt were just as psyched about Allen’s new film as millions around the world will be when it rolls out in cinemas. While many directors grow stale and lapse into self-parody, Allen manifests the opposite tendency where his fans are concerned. For them, the Allen oeuvre is like a bottle of aged Chateau Lafite Rothschild that grows more exquisite with the passing years.

So, the buzz was strong and people were pumped to see a Paris-set Allen romp starring the great Valérie Lemercier, whose plot reportedly involves a murder. And then what happened?

This is 2023. Everyone needs to be exceedingly careful not to rock the boat, or even to give the appearance of wanting to do so, or the appearance of failing to show a hypersensitivity so acute that there is no term for it. News sources have quoted remarks that the organizer of the festival, Thierry Frémaux, made in an interview with the magazine Le Figaro.

Per the website World of Reel, Frémaux basically told the French magazine that screening a project connected to Allen would upset too many people.

“The Woody Allen film, it’s a bit special. I saw it without seeing it. The film was not a candidate. We also know that if the film was shown at Cannes controversy would take over the fest, both against him and against the other movies.”

I saw it without seeing it. What a remarkable comment. It seems controversies around Allen’s alleged sexual abuse of Dylan Farrow, the adopted daughter of his ex-partner Mia Farrow—a charge no court has convicted him of and which he vehemently denies—have made Allen so toxic that anything with his name on it is off limits. Don’t screen it, don’t discuss it, don’t circulate it. In the delicious colloquialism du jour, do not give a platform to an outlier on matters of gender and gender identity.

No matter that Allen may well be innocent—the conclusion that independent investigators, the Yale New Haven Child Sex Abuse Clinic, the New York State Child Welfare agency, and the administers of lie detector tests over the years have reached—and that people of good faith are curious to see his film and assess it on its own merits. These days, you cannot separate an artist or creator from the political and social credit score that he or she has accrued through real or imagined sins of omission or commission. You can see a film without seeing it, or read a book without reading it. What the detractors of the director or author tell you in their piranha-like online feeding frenzies is all that you or the world need to know.

Then again, perhaps Frémaux’s decision is not a final one. Maybe he fancies that the world just needs more time to process all the controversy and claims and counterclaims surrounding Allen, no matter than he is 87 and Coup de Chance may well be his last lap around the track. It is a feat to make a film at this age, let alone one as reportedly excellent as Coup de Chance, but we need to take some time to consider the moral implications of screening his work and giving him a platform.

Coup de Chance may yet find its way onto screens at film festivals and conceivably even at Cannes, and Allen may gain some well-deserved late-career recognition. But there is a strong chance that the censors will win again. Frémaux acts as if time, for Allen at 87, is not an issue.

This affair may remind you of Allen’s short story “The Condemned,” which describes the rivalry of a pair of Parisian men, Cloquet and Brisseau. The two end up becoming friends, but there is a harrowing early scene. When Brisseau is drowning in the Seine, Cloquet weighs jumping in to rescue him but ends up going to a restaurant to dine first, because, Allen explains, he does not want to make the decision on an empty stomach.


 You May Also Like

Michael Washburn

Michael Washburn is a Brooklyn-based writer and journalist and the author, most recently, of The Uprooted and Other Stories (2018), When We're Grownups (2019), and Stranger, Stranger (2020). He's also host of the weekly Sea of Reeds Media podcast, Reading the Globe.

10 thoughts on “Malchance

  • April 19, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    Mr. Washburn:
    I would want to quote Joy Gresham in *Shadowlands* to comment on your piece, but her language might be inappropriate here. So, I will ask, what cinematic planet are you from? You state: “These days, you cannot separate an artist or creator from the political and social credit score that he or she has accrued.” These days? D.W Griffith’s work cannot be separated from his unconscionable racism. A film cannot be assessed separately from the ideology of the filmmaker who directs it. I teach *Birth of a Nation* to discuss the racist component of that film exclusively, not to point out the (false) claim that Griffith invented the close-up. I applaud Thierry Frémaux’s decision to exclude Allen’s film from the festival. Let’s honor the work of Ken Loach instead, a person whose offscreen life is commendable, as his films are. Lastly, if we are talking about Allen’s filmography, he overproduces works that continue to repeat the same Allen-esque neurotic themes. His films have become old, tired, and indistinguishable from one another.

    • April 19, 2023 at 3:50 pm

      Thank you! Agree completely.

    • April 19, 2023 at 4:11 pm

      Indistinguishable? What nonsense! I can distinguish each one with no problem at all.

      Overproduced? What does that even mean?

      Just what sort of Dr. are you? One quick to condemn one of the world’s greatest filmmakers based on scurrilous allegations that anyone with a brain can recognize as nonsense.

      What a horrible thing to post.

    • April 19, 2023 at 6:31 pm

      Oh really? I happen to have Mr. McLuhan right here…..

  • April 20, 2023 at 8:44 am

    What cinematic planet am I from? One with very quaint ideas about due process, the rights of accused persons, freedom of expression, and judging works based on their merits. I’ll never have a tenure-track job in a film studies department, let’s face it.

  • April 21, 2023 at 9:18 am

    This year’s Cannes festival was already attracting controversy over its decision to screen the film “Jeanne du Barry” (starring Johnny Depp, another hate figure for the self-righteous “Trustafarians” who dominate modern film journalism). Maybe Frémaux didn’t want to start another row by screening Woody Allen’s film there as well.

    ” A film cannot be assessed separately from the ideology of the filmmaker who directs it.”

    Dr. Monti : what “ideology” is in Woody Allen’s films that warrants those films being excluded from the Cannes Film Festival, and makes that decision to exclude worthy of “applause”?

  • April 22, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    That Dr. Monti teaches film tells me all I need to know about the utter worthlessness of her comments.

  • April 23, 2023 at 3:09 pm

    Does Dr. Monti exclude Chaplin from her film courses because his personal life was filled with scandals? If so, why doesn’t she believe that a well rounded film course should expose her students to all artists, regardless of their personal lives?

    And as a teacher of film, isn’t her professional responsibility to educate herself about all the facts about a film maker as prolific and acclaimed as Allen before making a judgment to exclude him? Other than accusations and that one sided Netflix documentary which was all but commissioned by the Farrow family, all of the facts prove overwhelming that Allen is an innocent man who never harmed his daughter in any way. The proof of his innocence is all over the internet and is incontrovertible.

    And if her issue is with his relationship with Soon-Yi, again all the facts are in his favor: Mia abused Soon-Yi physically and emotionally during her childhood. Woody rescued her from that mistreatment. He and Soon-Yi have been together for 31 years now. They have been happily married for 26 of those years – which is longer than all of Mia’s marriages combined and longer than the marriages of many non-celebrity couples who are much closer in age. They adopted two little girls whom they have raised to be happy, productive adults who adore their parents and defend them publicly. Manzie and Bechet are now college graduates and are pursuing great careers, with no hint of scandal, criminal behavior, drugs, or any other bad stuff. Again this is something many non celebrity families cannot claim about their offspring.

    And, not incidentally, Woody has long given great jobs to women while Hollywood has lagged far behind him in keeping women from behind the scenes jobs. Among the many important positions he has given to women over a lot of his films include production managers, casting directors, film editors, producers, music director. And he gives them equal pay!

    And none of the women – either in front of or behind the cameras – has ever made one complaint about him.

    Finally he has been accused only once of abuse and there is lots of evidence that child was coached by an ex- girlfriend out for revenge, whose own moral record is pretty bad — breaking up marriages, adulterous relationship as well as racism toward her Asian adopted children. Contrary to Woody’s relationships with his adopted daughters, Mia is estranged from two of her children, while two others committed suicide, and another died sick and alone in a hospital while Mia was on another continent virtue signaling for photo ops for the media.

    Dr. Monti, I think you need to seriously reconsider your position about Allen, because it does not make you look especially knowledgeable.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *