For those of you who don’t know who Roman Polanski is, after becoming an established arthouse film director, in 1967 Polanski’s house was broken into by the Manson family and his wife and unborn child murdered. He continued to make films in America, and elsewhere, until 1977 when he was charged with drugging and anally raping a 13 year old girl. Eventually he pleaded guilty to statutory rape (and later confessed to the other charges in his autobiography) and was initially sentenced to a 90 day psychiatric evaluation in a state prison. 42 days later, Polanski was released to receive his sentence in light of the evaluation. Upon hearing rumours that the judge would send him to prison and deport him, Polanski fled the US to live in the European that wouldn’t rat him out to the US. Yeah, he fled deportation. Wha-? Since 77, Polanski has been making films in Europe and was recently cleared of all charges.
Polanski’s most ardent of fans will argue that his artistic contribution to film in some way serves as repaying society for his crime – what I like to call The Michael Jackson Defence. But looking at his filmography, since 1977 I only see a mediocre kids adventure, an okay Harrison Ford movie, a Holocaust movie and several book adaptations. Now, that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy The Ghost Writer, or that many people didn’t enjoy Oliver Twist, but from my perspective it’s irrefutable that Polanski’s contribution to the story of art film ended in 1976 with The Tenant. Since, he has received increasingly large budgets from European financiers. But what should be questioned is does this man deserve to have continual financial support to make films, while filmmakers of similar acclaim such as Terry Gilliam (happy birthday Tez!) struggle with every new project they undertake? While this may be somewhat of a simplification of the way films are made, and questioning does nothing to prevent him gaining this financial backing, but the fact that every film he’s made besides Oscar masturbatory material The Pianist could be deemed a financial disaster… the guy’s pissed away over $100 million and, well, I just feel this European funding could go to more considered/cautious use considering Europe doesn’t even have a f*cking film industry.
About 100 film industry figures – including Scorsese, Woody Allen and David Lynch (*sobs*) – signed a petition unanimously agreeing that Polanski had paid his dues for his crime and has suffered unfairly for his actions for the past 34 years. 42 days in prison. 42 DAYS. The average term for statutory rape is between 5-7 years and, let’s face it, if his director buddies put up much as a fight as they have during his time in Europe then chances are his sentence would’ve been reconsidered or reduced. So instead of spending 5-7 years paying his dues in prison in Europe and not being allowed back in the US, Polanski chose to spend 34 years + ‘suffering’ for his actions and not being allowed back in the US. So not only is he remorseless (‘everybody wants to fuck little girls’ was his defence), but also lacks proper punishment. Hollywood is basically saying ‘oh, get over it. It’s okay because he’s suffered enough, and he makes good movies’. Meanwhile, 75% of the Polish public think another trial should be organised, one he doesn’t run away from, and the LA Times claims:“In letters to the editor, comments on Internet blogs and remarks on talk radio and cable news channels, the national sentiment is running overwhelmingly against Polanski.”
As a film lover, I find it difficult to dismiss the anticipation behind Carnage, albeit predominantly for its cast. Nevertheless, the Polanski case surely highlights Hollywood’s cosy forgetfulness better than any other event since Fatty Arbuckle was kicked out of L.A. (but that’s another story).
In other words, it’s about time a stake was put through this once and for all.