Joel Bocko, a regular reader here (as well as a talented writer in his own right under the guise of MovieMan0283 at The Dancing Image), has a great piece that revisits one of my honorable mentions for the Best of 2008 through the prism of current events. In his day job as the Boston Indie Movie Examiner, Bocko casts an eye on Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, the HBO documentary covering the circumstances of the famed director's trial for statutory rape and his subsequent flight to France.
Although Bocko is non-committal vis-à-vis his own opinion regarding the director's arrest, some reading between the lines indicates that he views the director's excuses with some skepticism, especially when he writes
...the film does conclude with the same interview which began it, in which a reporter sits across a restaurant table from Polanski and presses him on the subject of his life-changing encounter in the late 70s. "When the newspapers and the magazines and the books talk about you and little girls, is there anything in it?"As a huge fan of the director myself, I've often tried to ignore this lurid episode. But as I responded to the piece over at the Examiner:
"Well," Polanski responds, dodging the gravity of the accusation, "I like young women, let's put it this way. But I think most men do actually." Then he stares at the questioner, as if challenging him to go further. The reporter does, and Polanski continues to dissemble before acknowleding [sic] the case his questioner is alluding to. Clearing his throat, theatrically, he reaches across the table, diving into a basket full of nuts and then cracking one open. "What," he inquires, "would you like me to say about it exactly?" The trace of a smirk breaks across his calm expression, and as the creepily childlike score of Rosemary's Baby emerges on the soundtrack, the effect is somewhat sinister.
Then, in the end, we're back in that restaurant, and a meal is brought to the table. Ever charming, Polanski grins boyishly and proclaims, "I think it was a wonderful idea to do this, this interview over, over this lunch but the night is getting into the dinner, and case of you have in mind finishing this interview, I want to ask you if you intend to end on this note, or do you think there's something more to my life than my relations with, uh, young women?"
Today, the answer to that question just got a little more complicated.
I'm conflicted over the situation. There was a time when I would look at Polanski as a persecuted artist with a tragic life that was being hounded 3 decades later for an indiscretion that appeared to be consensual if illegal. Now, as a father of two I find it harder to dismiss it as a mere indiscretion. Now, I know that even though a child may exhibit instances of deep maturity they simply don't have the years of life experience necessary to make informed decisions regarding the situation [the victim, Samantha] Gailey found herself in.Yes, conflicted. I still sympathize with the man who lost his parents in the Holocaust, and lost his beautiful movie starlet wife and their unborn child in a massacre by the Manson acolytes. His movies still stir and awe me considerably more than other directors who I've admired more strongly yet more fleetingly.
But there is something I can't get past which has always made me a bit uncomfortable. There is a sense of entitlement inherent in Polanski's behavior towards the whole episode. From the outset, when the director behaved as if he were entitled to a sexual indiscretion, whether because of his star status or because of all the tragedies he's endured; to his decision to escape the judgements of this country's judicial system (justified as he may be that he was getting shafted by a mercurial and biased judge, Polanski still failed to show up to a recent court hearing that was willing to adjudicate his dispute with the original proceedings); the sense that he should be given an exception because of who he is has always seemed to hover in the periphery.
Today, my opinion on the matter just got a little more complicated.