Searching for Answers

Separating Art from the Artist

Is there a right time and a wrong time to separate the two?

philip-seymour-hoffman-deadI was out walking my dog yesterday when I learned of Philip Seymour Hoffman's passing. My first instinct was to stop and write something up on my phone and then edit the story once I finally made it home. It's a media world nowadays where being "first" is all that matters, even when it comes to writing about someone's death. I decided to wait and finished the final two-and-a-half miles.

Once I got home I got to work on writing up the story and by that time more and more details had surfaced and the situation became sadder and sadder. Hoffman, 46, had died of an apparent drug overdose. The gruesome reality of the scene, however, adds that the syringe was in his arm and he leaves behind three children (one son, two daughters) and his partner, Mimi O'Donnell, whom he met back in 1999.

A quote from one of his neighbors in the New York Times added another layer to the sad reality of his passing:

"He's a local. He's a fixture in this neighborhood," said Christian McCulloch, 39, who said that he lives nearby. "You see him with his kids in the coffee shops, he is so sweet. It's desperately sad."

Hoffman had struggled with drug abuse before, but got sober at the age of 22 and in the "60 Minutes" interview to the right from 2006, shortly before he won the Oscar for his role in Capote, when asked why he quit he says, "You get panicked ... and I got panicked for my life," then he adds, "I have so much empathy for these young actors that are 19 and all of a sudden they're beautiful and famous and rich... 'I'm like, 'Oh my God, I'd be dead.'" The interview gives me chills.

Hoffman was reportedly clean for 23 years, up until May 2013 when he checked himself into a detox facility for ten days after relapsing, beginning with prescription pills until he was snorting heroin, the drug that would eventually take his life nine months later...

Oh, by the way, did I mention Hoffman was an actor and director?

With a recent role in the blockbuster hit The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and news today that his character will not be recast for The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, he was also beginning work on his second directorial feature, Ezekiel Moss? That said, at what point are we expected to stop mourning the man that passed and begin looking at his body of work? Will we ever be able to look at them as separate entities again?

woody-allenI ask this as I found myself questioning a quote from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences publicist in a New York Times piece discussing the open letter written by Dylan Farrow, alleging her adoptive father, Woody Allen, had molested her as a child. As noted in the article, Allen was never prosecuted and has consistently denied wrongdoing.

In her letter she noted the "torment was made worse by Hollywood," adding, "All but a precious few (my heroes) turned a blind eye." Farrow challenged actresses such as Diane Keaton and Cate Blanchett, whom is expected to win the Best Actress Oscar this year for her role in Allen's Blue Jasmine, to justify their decisions to work with Allen.

As for the quote from the Academy publicist I mentioned, when asked for comment they said, "The Academy honors achievement in film, not the personal lives of filmmakers and artists." After reading what I wrote about Philip Seymour Hoffman is it possible to ever really separate the two? And by the way, Academy, you do periodically hand out the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. I applaud you for your recognition of good deeds, but does this mean we should just overlook the bad?

This isn't to compare Hoffman's situation with the Farrow and Allen story, each carries with it its own weight, some much darker and heavier than others. It's simply a matter of noting aspects of these people's lives that are impossible to shake or entirely ignore.

Will you ever watch a Woody Allen movie the same way after reading Dylan Farrow's open letter? Will you ever watch a Philip Seymour Hoffman performance the same way again? Or a performance from Heath Ledger or Paul Walker? Or a film from Tony Scott or Roman Polanski?

As a society we become entwined with the lives of celebrities and certain aspects of their lives become just as much a part of their "achievements in film" as they do in their "personal lives" as the Academy puts it.

Is art separate from the personal life of the artist? Can we separate the two? Should we? In situations such as the charges levied against Allen and Polanski, do we choose to ignore their personal lives because we are too selfish to deprive ourselves of what we may be missing out on if we do?

The next time I see Hoffman in a film I will probably see some sort of tortured soul behind his eyes, a man I would like to hug and wish I could somehow help. But what will I see the next time I watch a Woody Allen film?

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  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

    For me personally the answer is yes - the art and the artist can be separated. Perhaps this says more about my personal ethics. The same argument could be made for musicians such as Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendrix.

    Next time I watch a PSH movie I won't be thinking about his drug abuse - I will be more down that such a talent is gone.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      "I will be more down that such a talent is gone." That is not separating the art from the artist though.

      Additionally, even though you can, should you?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

    A great article Brad and certainly a tough question to figure out. Personally, I try my hardest to separate the art from the artist. Everyone has distinctively good and bad sides and there is no reason to deny that someone despicable cannot go on making great products.

    This is obviously not the same thing, but if the person who invents a cure for cancer also happens to be a child molester, it won't lessen his/her medical achievements in any way. While we would condemn the person, we wouldn't stop using the cure. In a much smaller way, I feel no problem condemning Woody Allen's actions while simultaneously acknowledging that he forwarded American cinema in a way few people have. I can continue to consume and appreciate his artistic product and also admit that I would personally never want to meet him and think legal action should probably be taken against him (even if this prevents future art? uggh i guess so, but that's just another layer that makes it more tricky.)

    Really, there is no "right" answer and I'm sure some people will disagree with me whole heartedly. I myself continue to wrestle with the question. How can my stomach churn so much reading that open letter and then still put Magic in the Moonlight on my most anticipated list? Is it right? Is it wrong? I don't know.

    As a final note, here's an article from the onion that asks similar questions but in an obviously satirical light:

    http://www.theonion.com/articles/boy-ive-really-put-you-in-a-tough-spot-havent-i,34949/

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

      I would differ with your argument in a couple of places. The first is while I know you're using an extreme example to make a point, art isn't exactly comparable to a cure for cancer. Midnight in Paris is a great film, but did it save millions of people all over the world from years of suffering and, ultimately, death?

      The second would be your point about legal action preventing future art. You acknowledge that this is acceptable, but add a caveat that it "adds another layer that makes more tricky." That caveat is a position with which I would vehemently disagree. If someone molests a child, the value of their art set against that crime is literally meaningless and shouldn't be a consideration on any moral plane. That being said, it's highly unlikely that any allegations against Allen could be proven this far removed from the alleged events, given that DNA evidence is pretty much required to prove sexual misconduct.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Mikey/ Mikey

        My point with the cancer was simply to show that a despicable person can have a positive output. I tried to make it clear that I didn't want to directly compare the two, just point out that I believe it is possible. Probably a mistake on my part to make such a broad comparison.

        As for the "layer" comment, I was trying to question/understand how I could support any legal action against Allen, and still claim that I'm able to separate art from artist. The caveat was to point out that my initially black and white stance on the issue (art=good, artist=bad) is sort of impossible to apply across the board. While I love many of Allen's films, I would still deny the world any future films for some level of justice (I acknowledge it will probably never happen, but this is speculation). Clearly this goes against separating the art from the artist, making it morally "tricky" in my eyes.

        I would like to make it clear: deciding whether or not a rapist should go to jail is not what was "tricky" Deciding if I can really see art and artist as two separate entities is what I find very, very "tricky."

        Thanks for your response. Thanks for keeping it civil. Feel free to reply again.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

          I appreciate the clarifications. I figured you probably didn't mean things as black and white as they originally sounded. To your (actual) point, as I said down below, I think that despite the best of our intentions, completely separating the art from the artist is probably impossible since I think the connection is always there on a subconscious level.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RonOnealFresh/ Ron Oneal Fresh

    It's impossible, you'd like to — it would be a hell of a lot easy to enjoy the art. PSH in the film "Before The Devil Knows You're Dead" his character shoots heroin, I can't watch that film and not marry that role with his tragic loss and struggle with the drug. Woody Allen in Annie Hall where he stars as a comic falling in love young woman, "The heart wants what it wants" Yeah, the adopted daughter of my ex-girlfriend!

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

    I don't think separating art from artist can be generalized because it depends on the severity of what this person has done and also each individual's moral compass.

    EX: Look at what happened recently with the band Lost Prophets. Their lead singer was charged and convicted of being involved with molesting children. I used to listen to that band, and I refuse to now. Deleted all songs I had. The other three members did no wrong, and I hope they start a new band. But I can't listen to music sung by a person who does that.

    The real shame is that PHS and others who have gone like him, will always be remembered more for this and not their body of work.

    "PHS...oh he's the guy from Capote right?". Now it will always be "PHS...oh, he died from a drug overdose right?".

    • http://www.smallnic.com/ SmallNic

      I don't think it's true that he'll be remembered more for how he died than his roles. I think the art tends to transcend the way the artist died. At least in my own head. So maybe the discussion will be more like, "PHS... He was that guy from The Master, right? He was so good in that. He was good in everything actually. Didn't he die from a drug overdose or something?"

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

        Probably for someone like you or others in this forum, who are more of a fan of cinema than most in general.

        But for the majority of people out there, the scandal/tragedy seems to always be what pops up first in a discussion.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

    I think sometimes when it's the personal life of a public figure it's very tricky to decide what you should do.

    Personally, I would say that my impression of myself is I try to keep the art and the artist separate. The reason I do is because at the end of the day, actors/directors/musicians etc these are all just people too. They're not superhuman and infallible or different to you and I when it comes to the temptations and demons which can come to anyone. On a more generic note some of them probably won't be necessarily nice people in real life but the coud be a great actors and I don't deal with them in real life. I just watch them on a screen. I'm now in the case of Hoffman learning more about the problems he dealt with in the past, and when people have addictions it doesn't matter if they've been clean for two weeks or 23 years - they can always relapse and fail if the right circumstances converge on them.

    In the case of Hoffman, I think it would be a great shame if his body of work and the three children he left become reduced to 'wasn't he the guy found with a syringe in his arm?' but it might become that.

    Allen is a little more sensitive, because these allegations have been raised before and they have not been proven. When Dylan Farrow asks how Diane Keaton and Cate Blanchett can work with Woody Allen she's asking them (and the Academy) to believe in allegations that are currently legally unproven as far as I understand it. And frankly why should they be dragged into what is a family history issue at this time anyway. I don't know any more than anyone else if Farrow's allegations are true in whole or in part but she's basically expecting people to believe her word against his. There are allegations and counter allegations and I have no idea who is telling the truth and never ever will. But the next time I watch a Woody Allen film, I would expect to feel no differently about him right now.

  • Marlon Wallace

    i think the Hoffman situation is different than the Woody Allen situation. when I heard that Hoffman died, i almost could have guessed that it was a drug overdose that killed him. it's almost cliche as a cause of death for actors and musicians. if you weren't affected back in 2006 during that '60 Minutes' interview, it's weird to be affected now about watching Hoffman films. plus, i'm not sure if drug addiction is as stigmatized as some might wish. given the legalization of marijuana in a couple of states and even the efforts of Carl Hart trying to decriminalize certain drug offenses, i don't think drug addiction is as looked-down upon as other things.

    but, as far as Allen, i agree with Winchester, yes, the open letter is damning, but Allen has not been convicted of anything. until he is, i'd like to think that we live in a country where people are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. i know that it's more a hypothetical question of how we would react to the Allen's films if he were an actually convicted child molester. if that were the case, then no, i could never watch another Woody Allen film ever again without that being on the forefront of my mind.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      The point isn't the difference in situation, merely we know something more about these people that changes our perception and whether or not you can separate yourself from that while absorbing and evaluating their art. I was just using these as examples.

  • yrabadi

    I often find it very difficult to separate 'the art from the artist'... Often times it might not even come down to scandalous events in that artists life, it might just come down to me not 'liking' that person, for whatever reason... And yes, I project it on to the work - unfairly.

    A perfect example is Wolf of Wallstreet... For me, not being a huge Leo fan, I simply can't bring my self to go see it - despite hearing the great things about it. Lump on to that the background of the real life events it is inspired on, and questions about whether I want to support the work to begin with arise.

    I always tell my friends, that I would be a horrible critic. Only because I have a very tough time taking on a film purely for what it is... I suppose, to a degree, I have a hard time being objective in that respect. For me, whether I enjoy a film or not, is impacted by many things aside from the film. The atmosphere of the movie-going experience, for instance... Am I with friends? Is it a film that people are excited for? Does it become an 'experience'? These things often impact me and my take on the film.

    Similarly, when it comes to the creative talent involved in making these, I would say it's impossible not to think about them as you're watching the work - if they're infamous, of course. You may be able to not judge the work based on those external events/issues tied to the talent, but they will always be there... Consciously or subconsciously. And so I suppose, no... You can't separate the two.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    Great post Brad...I definitely think while one can separate art from the artist, it is quite challenging once you've heard/read/experienced both sides.
    It's like you said, I will also find myself looking through another lense every time I revisit Hoffman's performances. While for Woody, I want to still give him the benefit of the doubt, but can I completely eliminate those accusations from crteeping in while watching him or his films? Not sure.

    I was able to separate Michael Jackson's music from those accusations, but I also had more of a connection to his music as I grew up with it...so maybe 'nostalgia' also plays a big part.

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    In terms of artistic achievement, the two should be separated. But I reserve the right to boycott or not pay for the work of anyone I believe to be morally ambiguous or debased. Have I lost respect for those who worked with Allen? Absolutely. Then again, there aren't many actors whom I have a great respect for.

    Think of it this way: Hollywood is liberal nirvana. Many actors, directors, and entertainers are Democrats who endorse Democratic candidates, including Obama. I have no respect for Obama, largely because of his continuation of the Bush-era foreign policy. Anyone responsible for carrying out drone strikes on innocent civilians is reprehensible, in my mind. That being said, if I were to stay away from the work of anyone supportive of the Obama administration, I wouldn't be able to watch many movies or TV shows. Roger Ebert was my favorite film critic, and even he fell into this category.

    It's tricky. I don't condone drug use, but I also don't believe that it should be a crime. Therefore, Hoffman's indiscretions have very little impact on my perception of him.

    • TheOneWhoKnocks

      For what it's worth, I think that the wrongful party ought to face social stigma for his or her actions. If that keeps the world for seeing some truly great art, then oh, well.

  • http://twitter.com/ronnivore Ronnie Errick

    Interesting. I was engaged in an all night debate regarding this topic yesterday. One particular NY Times article asked similar questions and actually shed a very interesting point on this. It said,

    "The reason that question — “Can bad people create good art?” — is misleading is that badness and goodness in this formulation don’t refer to the same thing. In the case of the artist, badness or goodness is a moral quality or judgment; in the case of his art goodness and badness are terms of aesthetic merit, to which morality does not apply."

    Here's the article.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/22/opinion/global-agenda-magazine-good-art-bad-people.html?smid=pl-share&_r=0

  • clarkcontraje

    I think child abuse should be punished and if you commit such a horrible crime, you shouldn´t be able to work and live an ordinary life. If that prevents the world from enjoying great movies, it´s fine by me. Did Woody Allen do it? I´ve got no idea. Am I gonna be able to enjoy his next movies? If I turn off my brain, If I make no judgements, sure.

    I think these are two very different things: one got killed by his actions (he terminated his life, not others), the other one destroyed a child´s life (if that actually happened, I have no idea).

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I know there are different things, again, not the point.

      • clarkcontraje

        Yes, that´s right, I kind of lost my point. Then I would say this: I can separate art from the artist sometimes. If I should give a yes or no, I would say no. I do care if the artist is a horrible human being.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Beautifulm/ Beautifulm

    I ask this question If a teacher or a police officer was accused of child molestation could you separate that teacher or police officer from their work? To me separating the Art from the Artist is a bit overused, because we are no separating anyone else's work from their personal life. Their art isn't literally saving lives, especially when there are so many talented people out there who never get the opportunity.I'm not going to dronw in tears if R. Kelly never sings another song.
    I think that for me personally, drug use, alcoholism and cheating are not the same as Molestation, Killing or Raping. I would definitely find it difficult to support their work if it's more of the latter.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ian/ Ian

    Ultimately I think it's very different to truly separate the two, at least on a subconscious level. I think maybe with the passage of time it becomes easier...in the summer of 2008 I have to believe pretty much everyone associated Heath Ledger's performance in The Dark Knight with his death six months before, especially given the narrative that developed of that role leading having such an effect on him personally. But I think the further we get from that event, it hangs over the role and the performance less than it first did (though it's possible that in that case it happened quicker because that was such monumental performance and quickly became discussed purely on its own merits). And actually, given the eerie similarities between Ledger's and Hoffman's deaths (right down to the time of year), I think it's possible that if I happen to watch The Dark Knight again sometime the next year, it may make me think of Hoffman's death as well as Ledger's.

    But I also think the nature of the associated event has an effect, and thus Allen's (alleged) situation, or say the allegations against Michael Jackson for that matter, aren't comparable to the situation of Hoffman (or Paul Walker, Heath Ledger, etc.). For me personally, even allegations of child abuse will likely cause Allen to make my skin crawl. Maybe that's not fair (innocent until proven guilty), but it's an extension of how that crime in general makes me feel, and also a consideration of the whole thing with Farrow's adopted-daughter-turned-Allen's-wife. But again, the passage of time probably has an effect here too. If years pass with no further allegations leveled against Allen, am I less likely to have a strong aversion to him? Honestly, probably so. I think the case of a conviction would be different, but as I mentioned in another comment above that's probably impossible in this case. But if there were to be more allegations against him, as there were against Jackson, that would probably sway me more.

    I fully realize these are all really just my personal feelings and opinions, not an objective analysis. But that's why I think there's no right or easy answer to this question. It just depends on how the situation affects you personally.

  • Paul Hennen

    I have to criticize the mere concept of putting Woody Allen in any context with Philip Seymour Hoffman. Philip had a drug problem. Woody is a disgusting weirdo. I feel bad Philip relapsed after many years and couldn't kick it again. Why does anyone even care about Woody Allen anymore?
    I see a post that was below mine, people like Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix, etc, had drug problems. They weren't perverts. Woody Allen and R. Kelly are gross. It's just not the same.
    So, in the concept of separating art from the artist, Philip Seymour Hoffman will be seen as a great actor. Woody Allen (for some reason) will be seen as a great director, but not a great person by any stretch of the imagination.
    *TeamPhilip (just being dumb on purpose at the bottom here since the comparison is laughable)

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Yeah, I said that in the article. Not really the point.

      • Paul Hennen

        Sorry for not being more specific. It wasn't a critical thing against the article, just people in general who group "Miley Cyrus" with "Kurt Cobain", nope, one was probably killed or struggled with drugs/was suicidal, the other is just a moron.

  • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

    I personally am able to separate the artist from the art with no issue. That being said, there are a few things that need to be addressed here.

    The first is that these allegations against Woody aren't necessarily new. The famous trial between him and Mia Farrow occurred during the 90s, right around the release of Husbands and Wives I believe, and the charges against Woody (molesting Dylan) were dropped after no concrete evidence could be established.

    This leads to the second and more important point that there is the possibility that Woody is innocent. This is a very good article from the director of the Woody Allen documentary released only a few years ago regarding the recent allegations that demonstrates how the issue is not so black and white and that there is a significant amount of reasonable doubt: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/01/27/the-woody-allen-allegations-not-so-fast.html

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

      I discovered that article myself and was considering editing my previous post to include it after reading it right through.

      I also discovered there's a couple of rebuttals of Weide's article branding him arrogant (though apparently he's branded as so by people willing to accept Dylan Farrow's letter as all the evidence required to establish guilt on Allen's part) for questioning Farrow's account.

      What the whole thing does establish, is that the Allen allegations are extremely, extremely complex in their origins and go back over family history and events which will now never really be known in full. In such circumstances I see no point pandering to internet reactionism until and unless charges are levied and guilt proven.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Beautifulm/ Beautifulm

        But Brad's question wasn't whether or not Woody is innocent or guilty. It's should we separate the art from the artist. You don't even have to use Woody as an example to answer the question as there are plenty of Artists with questionable backgrounds. No offense, but I don't think this topic should go off on a tangent about whether or not Woody is guilty or innocent. There have been too many topics about that lately.

        • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

          The only reason I brought this up in the first place was because I interpreted Brad's article as implying that Woody is in fact guilty. Not sure if this is how Brad feels, but it was how I read the article.

          • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

            There are no accusations and I point out how he was never charged and maintains his innocence and use the word allegedly. Guilt or innocence has nothing to do with whether or not you are going to associate a public figure with their personal lives when interpreting their art.

            • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

              Re-read the article; my bad, must have read it too quickly the first time.

            • http://letterboxd.com/criterion10/ Criterion10

              Guilt or innocence has nothing to do with whether or not you are going to associate a public figure with their personal lives when interpreting their art.

              I'm not so sure about this though. As a matter of fact, I would claim the contrary, that a person would interpret a public figure's art differently if the figure was proven to be guilty as opposed to innocent in regards to a private manner. Had the public figure been proven innocent, I feel as though it would be as if the situation was never an issue in the first place.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Beautifulm/ Beautifulm

                OJ and Michael Jackson were proven to be not guilty and people still have issues with them. I think your personal opinion on the individual is more of a deciding factor than what is proven in court.

              • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

                I'm not saying it wouldn't be perceived on different levels, just simply it would change your perception. Woody Allen, I'd say, is proof of this considering he was never prosecuted and yet, there is no way this is all forgotten as if it never happened.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

          I think in the Allen case there would be more likely to be a change in the perception of his art if it became the case he was charged. That isn't going to happen but as tje article in part covers, plenty of people seem to have judged Allen on the matter.

          Now, I don't feel the need to look at Allen's work differently after reading Farrow's letter (which was a question posed by Brad) because there's more to it than a single letter. Which was all I was trying to point out. Perhaps not clearly though.

  • http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3769949/ thatpj

    I find talk like this hypocritical. One is more susceptible to want to keep thing separate if one is emotionally invested in artist in question. Since it is cool to worship Allen and Hoffman, one can brush aside their faults, no matter how egregious they might be. Yet a Bieber or a Russell or anyone else that isn't part of the cool club dont get that benefit of the doubt.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Beautifulm/ Beautifulm

      Bieber or Russell have their fans too. I think that my thinking is similar to yours as far as everyday people. Yeah it's fine to separate the artist from their art when it comes to famous people. However, when it comes to your local police officer who was accused of rape. No one is going to give him an award for his work or even allow him to work.

  • robotsrule

    Well you're asking the right questions Brad. But they are questions that we're meant to wrestle with and figure out personally. There is, of course, no right answer to them. I don't believe you can simply block or turn off some part of your brain that knows something about an artist so I see no reason to try. Granted when writing criticism I think it's important to stay objective but we're talking about art here so I think whatever organic reaction you have to something is fair game. Every time I see a Tom Cruise movie I can't help but think about the pyramid scheme cult he's a part of but it doesn't usually take me out of the movie too much and to the degree that he and the filmmakers are effective I am able to temporarily forget that it is Tom Cruise the weirdo Scientologist.

    To be sure seeing a performance from Hoffman now, along with Ledger and River Phoenix and others, is likely to illicit some deeper sympathy and perhaps belie a hidden pain we hadn't seen before, and I don't think we should take that as a negative. There was always a quiet sweetness and sadness that came from Hoffman's performance. I don't see this changing anything.

    Woody Allen is a slightly different story, but we're talking about allegations and not arrest and convictions here. I'm a big Woody Allen fan, from before Soon Yi Previn and any of this other stuff came up. To me Allen himself is almost impossible to separate from his nebbish and neurotic screen roles. They are essentially the same people. The truth of the allegations is unknowable to anyone except Allen and Farrow so to have an opinion on it is meaningless. All of the internet hyperbole and foaming at the mouth is largely just a reflection of whatever bias and ego trip people happen to have. None of it is based in any kind of fact so people will have to decide for themselves whether or not to see Allen's films going forward and how to treat the ones from the past. For me, allegations alone are not enough to prevent me from enjoying Allen's work. There is a presumption of innocence in our culture until proven guilty. Anyone can accuse another person of anything in a free society. But we do not accept that accusation without proof or we devolve into witch hunts, red scares, and scapegoating. Those are not values of a democratic and just society.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/sofasobad/ sofasobad

    I don't think you can separate the art from the artist, because surely art is an expression of the self, or at the very least an expression of how the artist sees the world. But I think it's possible to hate the artist but still love the art.

    For example, turning to literature for a moment, Tolstoy was really horrible to his wife, and I wish I'd never read a biography of him, but he wrote some brilliant women characters in some of the greatest ever novels. Kipling and a whole bunch of nineteenth-century writers held views that would now be thought unacceptably rascist. Olympia glorified the Nazis' but was technically very innovative.

    For PSH I will just feel sorrow and pity. For Woody Allen I will always feel distaste, leaving aside the question of his daughter's accusations. Running off with your partner's teenage daughter is reprehensible enough. His habit of casting himself as a romantic lead long after this became completely implausible has always made me feel queasy. I was really creeped out by the scene in Everyone Says I Love You where the young Julia Roberts, dressed only in a towel, has to tell him what a wonderful lover he is, while he's sitting there fully covered (thank goodness) in a horrible dressing gown looking like her grandad (and resembling Steptoe senior, for anyone who gets the British reference). The paradox is that Allen has written some good roles for women. But I do think that he's overrated. PSH is not.

  • Joyce Tyler

    Why are you assuming that Woody Allen is guilty when a thorough investigation of Dylan's claim, including a medical and psychological evaluation, showed that she had not been molested and was not completely in touch with reality?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RonOnealFresh/ Ron Oneal Fresh

      uh, don't think that's how that happened.

      “The Yale team used psychologists on Allen’s payroll to make mental
      health conclusions.” and “Leventhal himself later admitted, in sworn
      testimony in the custody case, that he made several mistakes during the
      course of the investigation. One of those was his false characterization
      of Dylan’s active imagination as a thought disorder.”

      http://jezebel.com/what-we-should-talk-about-when-we-talk-about-the-dylan-1514959143

      - Woody Allen dated a 17 year old girl when he was 42

      - He married the adopted daughter of his ex-girlfriend who he's know of since she was 7-8 year old

      I think don't think it's unfair to stamp a ruling of guilty on the part of Woody Allen being a creep.

      The allegations of him molesting his ex-girlfriend daughter on the other hand is just allegations and no proof, but him not being charged by authorities isn't proof of his innocence. When it comes to potential child abuse unless there's a "not guilty" verdict or the alleged victim retracts their abuse claims — a lot people aren't going be stern in dismissing the victim claims for the fear ... I guess that it'll come back later that the victim was telling the truth the whole time and they've been defending a child molester because they like his movies or he won a bunch of football games.

      Guilty until proven innocent in the case of child abuse probably isn't fair but it's the world we live in.

      • Joyce Tyler

        He may be a creep, and he may have dated a 17-year-old girl, and he married the 21-year old adopted daughter of his ex-girlfriend, but that doesn't mean he sexually assaulted his ex-girlfriend's 7-year-old step-daughter. Presumably the doctors who examined her and said there was no indication at all that she'd been sexually assaulted weren't on Allen's payroll.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RonOnealFresh/ Ron Oneal Fresh

          Valid points. I just find it strange after 20 years that Dylan Farrow would come out and say the things she says If absolutely nothing happened.

          • Joyce Tyler

            She was seven when all of this came down. Children have been known to absorb into themselves a loving mother's abandonment and revenge issues.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      I didn't assume anything. I didn't pass any judgment whatsoever, that's not the point at all.

      • Joyce Tyler

        Okay. Then my answer is, in the future, when I watch a Woody Allen movie, I'll judge it by the quality of the movie, and I won't give a thought to the fact that one (out of the many ex-girlfriends he helped to make stars of), has never forgiven him and is determined to make him suffer for the remainder of his creative life.

        • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

          I think that's one way to look at it, but it does seem like it is having at least some effect on you. Considering how much of Allen's personality leaks into his films, though, I think of all the directors working today, he is certainly one whose personality is all over every frame and nearly impossible to separate the art from the artist. You can say you will, but saying and doing are different things.

          On top of that, he's just one example of the many out there. For example, it's said Tree of Life is Malick dealing with the death of his brother. Knowing that, can you separate the art from the artist?

          • Joyce Tyler

            Would I like "Tree of Life" more than I already do had I known that it might have been Malick dealing with the death of his brother? No. Do I loathe "To the Wonder" any more than I already do because it might have been Malick dealing with the guilt he feels for the way he's treated some of the women in his life? Nope. I judge a film purely by what's up there on the screen, how it makes me feel, what it says to me.
            And, as for Woody Allen, much more apparent to me than how much of himself (or the Woody persona) he puts into his films, is how the huge influence that the work of other artists have had on his work. But that's another discussion.

            • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

              I'm surprised you think you can be that black and white about it, but I obviously can't argue your own opinion against you. :)

              I just think we all certainly attempt to judge what's in front of us as singular objects, but to suggest our knowledge of anything behind the scenes doesn't change our perception is a little naive in my opinion.

              I will say this, if you were to read a breakdown of how Tree of Life was inspired by the death of Malick's brother and how exactly each scene came into being from his personal experience, I would be surprised if it didn't have the slightest effect on how you perceive the film. In fact, I hope it would have an effect because it only enriches the material.

              Yes, it can also make things harder to watch, but such is the way of life, art of most any value is an extension of the person making it, therefore that person's life has an effect, we just don't always have insight into it.

              • Joyce Tyler

                Naïve...not a nice word. My point is that if an artist has succeeded in expressing what s/he intended, then it isn't necessary to know the artist's backstory. I suppose if Tree of Life had failed to move me in the way Malick intended, and I discovered later that the film was his way of dealing with his brother's death, I would've factored that into my opinion of the film. But that didn't happen; I didn't require his backstory in order to fall to pieces at Mrs. O'Brien's reaction to her son's death, or to realize that the character," Mrs. O'Brien," was probably Terry Malick. I just needed Jessica Chastain's performance, which is right up there on the screen.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/RonOnealFresh/ Ron Oneal Fresh

    If a person who's art that you love is accused of being a monster or proven to be one, that doesn't all of sudden invalidate their great art.

    However don't you have to simmer down the lauding and celebration of that person, particularly when a lot of the inspiration for that artist work comes from their REAL life. Which might possibly be dark and insidious?

    I'm not too sure. I'd like to say yes.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      "However don't you have to simmer down the lauding and celebration of
      that person, particularly when a lot of the inspiration for that artist
      work comes from their REAL life. Which might possibly be dark and
      insidious?"

      Yeah, I was going to get into that very topic as well, but felt the article was already long enough. To your point, art really can't be separated from the artist in any real way considering one is born out of the other.

    • GoodMan

      I absolutely think we have to scale back our celebration of the artist in those scenarios. At the same time, we do have the capacity to appreciate the art itself when we can separate the two.

      One recent example in sports is Aaron Hernandez with the Patriots. If the charges of being an alleged murderer are true, he is a deplorable person who deserves no commendations. At the same time, when talking sports, we do recognize his great football skills and how much he added to the Patriots.

      It's easier in sports to do that, though, as we don't connect with athletes in nearly the same way we do with actors in films.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Newbourne/ Newbourne

    Wrestling fans have been struggling with this idea for the past 7 years, as one of the most brilliant and talented professional wrestlers of all time murdered his wife and child and then himself in June 2007. I personally have never been able to view his matches in the same way again.

  • jpb

    I'm not sure you can compare Jimi Hendrix with child molestation. Many artists have accelerated their demise by abusing their bodies, but crimes against children is far from self-abuse. It is easy to say that so you can continue to watch their movies, but isn't that what Dylan was saying? All these people worship Woody Allen, and indirectly hide his crimes. I don't know if he's guilty, but being a good director shouldn't absolve him of investigation.
    I find it strange that there is a reluctance to "boycott" a director who abuses children, but we will quit eating Chik-fil-a because the owner opposes gay marriage, and destroy the career of that TV Chef who was at least racist at some point in her life (although later being acquitted of the relevant accusation). Regardless of what side you are on from these, I'm pretty sure lives were destroyed by the words exchanged, but people did their best to "silence" them. We have now 2 directors, one convicted and one accused, and many are quick to want to hail their artistic acheivements. I remember when Polanski was almost extradited. I was shocked at the support he received, particularly since that was a moment addressing him, not his art.
    Nevertheless, a great article Brad. While very disparate, it is a very relevant article and the juxtaposition of the 2 stories makes a lot of sense.
    Mikey, remember the Nazis made many medical discoveries from the torture of Jews. NO ONE lauds them, nor recognizes them for anything that came from their crimes. I'm not even sure it would be easy to figure out what did come from it because it was so important to bury the association. It DOES lessen their achievements and taints their work.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    I will enjoy PSH's performances even more now that he has passed, savouring every single minute of his magnificence on screen.

  • Navelkist

    Part of the greatness of the greatest actors/directors like Woody and PSH is how their movies/roles take you out of reality! The joker is performed so perfectly by the late HL when you are experiencing the movie it's all-encompassing. Every Hollywood performer has some tabloid issue. If you let that ruin the movie that's your loss.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      No one said "ruin", though that very well may be the case with some artists.

  • http://www.smallnic.com/ SmallNic

    Very interesting discussion topic, Brad. I'd like to address a few of your questions. I will try to keep it brief. (I failed. Sorry.)

    "At what point are we expected to stop mourning the man that passed and begin looking at his body of work? Will we ever be able to look at them as separate entities again?"

    I don't think I'm going to have a problem separating Philip Seymour Hoffman,(and his personal problems) from his work, mainly because I never really thought about the man to begin with. The way I see it there was a man named Lancaster Dodd, a man named Dean Trumbell, and a man named Phil Parma, and they were all played (incredibly well) by a man named Philip Seymour Hoffman. I know all three fictional characters more intimately than I ever knew the real man. The most I can even say about PSH is that he was a great actor. So great, in fact, that the next time I watch a movie with him in it, I'm probably not going to see his tortured soul, but rather the soul of the character he's playing. It's a testament to his own abilities that he can make me forget he even exists.

    "Is art separate from the personal life of the artist? Can we separate the two?"

    When we go into a movie, we know we're watching actors playing make believe on a set that may never have existed before they built it for the movie. We suspend our disbelief. Whether or not we can separate the art from the artists depends on how much we can still suspend that disbelief, and that depends on many factors: the quality of the art, the subject of the art, the severity of the artist's actions, the charisma of the artist, how recently we heard something negative about the artist, our personal history, our current mood, etc.

    Now SHOULD we separate the art from the artist? Art never exists inside a vacuum, even though it sometimes feels that way because it is such a great escape. Every single thing in our lives colors our view of the art we look at. I believe you and Laremy have discussed as much when people suggest that film criticism should be more objective. That's why I think the "should" of the question is kind of pointless. If the artist affects your opinion of the art, so be it. If not, okay. As long as we address it, and don't resort to name-calling, it'll make for interesting discussion.

    "In situations such as the charges levied against Allen and Polanski, do we choose to ignore their personal lives because we are too selfish to deprive ourselves of what we may be missing out on if we do?"

    I don't know that I agree that it's selfish to want to experience the art of someone accused of a crime, or even convicted. My biggest issue comes down to whether I want to put my money in that artist's pocket. I'll give Allen my money because there is so much doubt to whether he did something I think of as wrong. I don't want to put money in Polanski's pocket because I think what he did was wrong and I do not want to financially support that kind of person.

    The Wolf of Wall Street is an interesting example because Jordan Belfort is not the artist involved in the movie, but supporting it and recommending it probably helps him with book sales and who knows what else. It's a tough issue. I don't want to help a criminal, but I love the art that the criminal inspired. Like most things in life, there's no wrong or right answer, just what you can live with I guess.

    Damn you Brad, for taking up so much of my work day by making me have to write this long response. See you on the podcast! (Btw, if you or Laremy died from a drug overdose it would definitely color my view of your podcasts becaue I feel I know you both as people more than characters. So don't do drugs, okay?!)

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      "Every single thing in our lives colors our view of the art we look at."

      I agree completely and it's why I think it's impossible to separate the art from the artist, though there are cases, as you point out where the art manages to make us to almost forget we are watching art. Those moments where a performance is no longer a performance and you aren't watching Philip Seymour Hoffman, you're watching Lancaster Dodd.

      I think the questions I asked are impossible to answer in terms of black-and-white, which I think you've essentially proven here, but I also think they are fascinating questions to explore as they, again... elevate the art.

      Oh, and don't worry, no drugs here. :)

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/rti03/ Tiago Rti

    Personally i can separate the art from the artist, and i think those two should be separated.

    The fact that for example Woody Allen married his step-daughter and the fact that he has had some child abuse accusations it won't take a bit of my appreciation for his movies or it doesn't make be less excited for his next movie.

    Roman Polanski had sex with a 14 year old and i saw an interview where he says that he likes young women, does that make him less of filmmaker certainly not, will that be in the way of me enjoying one of his movies, absolutely not.

    For example Angelina Jolie has 13 adopted kids and goes in missions to Africa where she helps people, is that good? Yes but does that make me enjoy more a terrible movie like
    Lara Croft - Tomb Raider? No it does not.

    Sean Penn for example, he beat the crap out of Madonna when they were married back in the 80's, should that interfere with my enjoyment of a movie like Milk or Mystic River or Dead Man Walking or whatever i don't think so.