Posts Tagged ‘Roman Polanski’

A scandal is a fine time to recommend a flick

October 1, 2009

The other day I recommended two films related to the Polanski affair (which I’ve written about far too much for something I claim to care so little about), but today it occurred to me that there’s one film that captures much of what this predicament is all about, and it’s neither a documentary nor a film directed by Polanski himself: Fritz Lang’s Fury (1936).


In many ways, Fury is Lang’s most affecting work, as well as a remarkable inversion of the film that most consider to be Lang’s magnum opus, M. I’m not really sure what it is about the Polanski affair that causes me to think of Fury, though it must have something to do with the subjects interrogated by Lang, Spencer Tracy and Sylvia Sidney:  justice, guilt, revenge, mob mentality, etc. It treats all of these subjects critically yet sensitively, which is more than I can say for most of the people participating in the discourses surrounding Polanski’s predicament.

I don’t recommend Fury to imply that Polanski is innocent of anything, nor that he should somehow try to seek revenge for the injustices perpetrated against him by the American legal system; I’m only trying to link a state of affairs in the cinematic world with a state of affairs in the non-cinematic world—after all, Fury dramatizes the unique way in which cinema can shed light on dark situations beyond the movie theater.

On being “brain-dead” and lacking “a moral compass”

October 1, 2009

My esteemed colleague Kevin Slane sounds off on the Polanski affair in today’s issue of the Daily Cardinal. Kevin, I love ya, but this column is problematic on several levels.

First, Kevin’s central argument is little more than a straight regurgitation of the popular anti-Polanski position, one shared (as I posted yesterday) by such cuddly neo-fascists as Jean-Marie Le Pen; I’m particularly disheartened to see Kevin play the “he nearly got probation for raping a 13-year-old girl!” card, when Kevin must know all too well (as it seems he did a bit of research, at least) that rape was not the charge to which Polanski plead guilty. Obviously rape is a horrible crime and if he were found guilty of it, I’d be all for a considerable stay in the slammer for the director of Knife in the Water and Repulsion; but that just ain’t how the American legal system functions, my man. Criminals are often guilty of a plethora of sins against humanity or whatever, but that’s not necessarily what lands them in prison; it’s what the prosecution can successfully stick to the defendant that does put them away for a while. Polanski’s trial was conducted within the boundaries of this same legal system, and yet he’s an exception to the whole “law and order” thing just because he has an air of celebrity-exceptionalism about him? Please. What’s the difference between Hollywood elites pushing for Polanski to be made into a supposed exception to the rule and those who are calling for Polanski to be tossed into an American prison, effectively making him an exception to another type of rule, that is, the proper implementation of our own legal codes?

Kevin also (cynically) compares Polanski to Gary Glitter. Kevin ought to know that this comparison is absolutely absurd. Glitter was not only a repeat offender, he was convicted each of those times, including convictions after 2005, which was when he fled the UK for Vietnam.  Kevin says he doesn’t understand how “such a double standard” could exist, but it’s clear that these two men and their crimes have little if anything in common.

Finally, Kevin takes a predictable yet disappointing shot at Woody Allen in the concluding paragraph of the column, because it was clearly necessary to do so. Kevin refers to WA as “a man who should be familiar with inappropriate relationships with his own children”… huh? Is Kevin alluding to Allen’s stepdaughter, Soon-Yi Previn, to whom he is still married today and who is now 38-years-old? Allen might’ve been “creepy” by conventional standards once upon a time, but hey, c’est l’amour.

In short, Kevin relies upon too many played-out arguments and self-righteously demagogic tactics to contribute anything new to the conversation about the Polanski affair. Yes, this situation has a very definite moral dimension to it; that said, it is first and foremost a legal predicament, one that ought to be resolved according to the law. There remains much to be said about Polanski’s trial (though there’s little to say about his life since the trial, apart from speaking of the remarkable body of work he’s produced since his guilty plea), but as far as the moral dimension is concerned, people are repeating themselves ad nauseum simply because it’s a much easier thing to take a position on.

The Front National vs. Sarkozy and… Polanski

September 30, 2009

I suppose it was inevitable that Jean-Marie Le Pen, being an excessively proud Frenchman and all, would have something or other to say about the recent Roman Polanski debacle. Here it is, a statement that Le Pen made in tandem with his daughter and soon-to-be-boss of the Front National, Marine (courtesy of the NY Times):

On the extreme right, the father and daughter politicians Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen also criticized the ministers, saying they were supporting “a criminal pedophile in the name of the rights of the political-artistic class.”

Obviously, Le Pen isn’t sounding off on Polanski so much as he’s sniping at his enemy Sarkozy, who is all too eager to run around bearing a bull’s-eye; nevertheless, the presumably contentious relationship between the FN and European artists has been of great interest to me as of late, so if anyone knows of another instance of Le Pen criticizing or even endorsing a filmmaker, novelist, painter, whoever—don’t hesitate to enlighten me.

UPDATE (12:26PM): Richard Brody offers his own, decidedly more nuanced take on the Polanski affair, and I agree with more or less everything he says. Sure, the law’s the law and it ought to be upheld 99.99% of the time, but what about when the law is functioning to smack Lady Justice right in the kisser? Polanski is certainly guilty of some undeniably sordid and skeezy acts, but the court was also guilty of practicing a parody of prosecution against him. The whole situation is as bizarre as it is troubling. Many commentators are arguing that letting Polanski off would amount to allowing the rich and famous to play by a dramatically less restrictive set of rules (as if they don’t already), but what about the court that fumbled Polanski’s case so badly, or the dishonest, attention-starved judge who presided over and orchestrated this disgustingly drawn-out charade? Justice, ladies and germs, is a two-way street, not a cul-de-sac.

To all those who have passed or who intend to pass judgment on the recently detained Roman Polanski…

September 28, 2009


You’ve got two films you ought to watch (that is, if you haven’t already seen them): Marina Zenovich’s 2008 documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (on his career, the circumstances of his crime and his circus of a trial) and, as a sort of counterpoint, his 1976 film The Tenant (a film that has a great deal to say about its own maker, none of which is very flattering).