The less we know – the better?
I’m not that much into Hollywood gossip. This isn’t because I’m a person with some kind of superior morale who believes her self to stand above such petty and ugly things. I’m just not very good with names, so most of the time I have no idea of who they’re talking about.
But if I actually wanted to learn about their dirty secrets, it wouldn’t take a big effort. We’re living in the golden age of gossip – or transparency if you put it nicely. The actor who cheats on his wife, the director with a drug addiction, the producer who prefers kinky sex, Tom Cruise who is a part of a crazy sect – it’s all out in the open.
The question is: does it matter? If I have certain information about a producer, director, screenwriter or actor, will it affect how my view on their work? Does it take away a bit of the enjoyment from watching a movie if I know that someone in the production has been accused of sexual abuse of children?
Is it possible to have one opinion about the person and a completely different opinion about the result of their creative process? Can you completely avoid getting influenced from what you know?
Allen and Polanski
I wish I could say straight away that I always judge a work only on its own merits and that my integrity is impeccable, but a more honest response would probably be: it depends.
Let’s look at a couple of cases. First we have Woody Allen. I’ve watched and loved his movies for as far as I can remember. In the early 90s Allen and Mia Farrow broke up after a 12 year long relationship. The reason was that he had gotten into a relationship with his partners adoptive daughter. This wasn’t against the law; he wasn’t legally the father, and the she was old enough to decide for herself. However – the whole business felt very icky to me, with its incestuous connotations. It still does and it affects my view on the person Woody Allen. But it doesn’t change my love for his movies. I still watch every one that comes out. I enjoy them for what they are and I don’t think at all about his private life issues.
A second example is Roman Polanski. He’s been worse than icky. He committed a crime as he took sexual advantage or even raped a 13 year old girl. It’s a long time ago and I won’t judge whether he has made up for it or not during all those years he’s been on the run. Fact remains that the very thought of someone raping a 13 year old girl is sickening to me. But it won’t change my appreciation of Rosemary’s Baby.
A more recent occurrence was Lars von Trier’s infamous press conference in Cannes, where the director made a fool of himself claiming that he was a nazist. This did a) not convince me that this actually was the case b) not change the way I thought of Melancholia (I liked it).
Making things complicated
The thing is we are surrounded by products and services that are creations of people. And people do bad things.
Life would become incredibly complicated if I would stop appreciating and using anything that can be connected to someone who once committed a crime. How do I know that the fork I’m eating with wasn’t designed by someone who hit his wife? Should I stop eating a certain brand of marmalade if I learned that the guy who made up the recipe was a fascist? Even the most repulsive person you may think of can somewhere in the midst of all his awfulness have made a contribution to the world in the form of a movie, a car design or a poem. I can’t see why it would make the world into a better place rejecting this little piece of goodness.
But everyone doesn’t agree with me. The most mind boggling example I’ve seen of this was the Swedish Save the Children organization, which a couple of years ago were pointed out that the font in their company profile, Gill Sans, was created by a paedophile. The media stirrup this caused made them instantly declare that they would change the font as soon as possible. And this is just craziness if you ask me. Changing your font is a big deal and very expensive. That money could have been used better. And where does it lead them? Will they check out that no paedophile was involved in the making of the furniture at their office as well?
The deal breaker
But there is a line for me as well. If the movie becomes a part of the crime that the person committed, a child molester making movies that glorify raping of children – or if children have been abused during the recording of the movie, if someone is making a profit thanks to their repulsive actions and views – then I have a problem.
It doesn’t matter to me how technically skilled Leni Riefenstahl was or what a pioneer she may have been especially as a woman in a male world. She was a friend and admirer of he-who-must-not-be-named. Her movies were a part of the nazi propaganda and no amount of claimed “naivety” will change this fact. She celebrated a human ideal that contributed to the disaster, to the unspeakable horrors. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to see her movies as separate unities or enjoy them. They remind me too much of unspeakable crimes that were committed – and that still are committed, only in new appearances.
I know very little about the lives of the movie makers. And if I finally get to know anything, I’m usually years behind. It was only recently that I heard that Mel Gibson apparently had aired some appalling opinions, which had a bad impact on his image. I probably would have been better off without learning this.
Maybe I’m a coward, but for the future I will stick to my current tactics, not paying all that much attention to all the information that is floating around. In the end – it’s the movies that matter. Nothing else. With a few, rare exceptions.
Contagion is just about to open in my city and I’m planning to watch it. For some reason I’ve always been strangely attracted to movies about pandemics. I know absolutely nothing about the director Steven Soderbergh as a person and I have no intention of trying to find out. So if you know any icky details – please save them to yourself.
The weekend is around the corner. If you too have plans for a theatre visit, I hope it will be a good one. And don’t forget to drop by for a cup of something nice and a chat on your way home. This café is always open.