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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lights, Camera, Focus

            This weekend marks the release of The Ghost Writer, the latest film from director Roman Polanski.  Reviews for the film so far have been very positive, but considering Polanski's controversies will the reception by the filmgoers be equally so?

           If you aren't familiar with Roman Polanski and the scandel which has followed him for over thiry years, there is certainly plenty of information to be found on the story. The point is that many find Polanski to be abhorrent.  He has been in the news--again--for the last several months.  Now with his new movie coming out in theaters around the world many cries of condemnation of the man will continue to be shouted along with calls to boycott his film.  This leads me to the question for today:

Considering the charges against Roman Polanski, do you think his new film should be boycotted?

           Roman Polanski is a talented director who has directed some great fillms.  In my own Blogger profile you will find Repulsion in my list of favorite films.  I am also a big fan of other Polanski films like Chinatown, Bitter Moon, The Pianist, and Death and the Maiden.  The Tenant (French: Le Locataire) and Repulsion are two of the greatest psychological horror films ever made in my opinion.  I will not be going to the theater to see his new film, but only because I just don't go to the movies anymore.  I'm sure I will put The Ghost Writer in my Netflix queue when it comes out on DVD.  Roman Polanski stands as one of my favorite film makers

          However, as far as Polanski the person I am in no postion to make a judgement about him.  I know something about the story but I have not followed it intensely, do not dwell upon it, and am not particularly interested in it.  I don't know Roman Polanski and I am not going to judge him solely upon media reports.

         He has an incredible life story that would be scoffed as unrealistic if it were put into a book.  He lost his mother at the Auschwitz concentration camp, lost a wife to the Charles Manson family murderers, and went on to become an award winning movie director including the Oscar for Best Picture for The Pianist.  He is excoriated by many, while championed and defended by much of Hollywood and the arts community throughout the world.  Which leads to another question:

Is too much effort and money being put into extraditing Polanski?

      Society seems to delight in scandal and digging up all of the sordid details of a celebrity's life until that person is ripped from their pedestal and dragged through the mud.  Lately it's been Tiger Woods, once it was Michael Jackson. There have been politicians, actors, and authors who have had lives scrutinized and dissected and even destroyed.  For many it's so great to see the "big" people brought down to size.

         But aren't there more serious issues that we and our legal system should be focusing upon.  Low life criminal scum who contribute nothing positive to society infest our communities as they are released by overcrowded court systems.  Prisons are overcrowded with a criminal class that has adapted to being a criminal class until this prison system overflows its unredeemed population into the streets to prey on more victims. Rehabilitation is an ideal which is often talked about but rarely achieved.

          By no means am I a champion of Roman Polanski the man-- it's just not something that is in the range of my concern.  I just think that we should put his crime in perspective.  For one thing the case was settled in civil courts from what I understand.  I would say that Polanski has learned his lesson.  He is probably not going to stop being an unproductive person and head out into the streets continuing a life of crime. 

           There have been other great creative individuals who have done bad things and were less than good people.  Richard Wagner was rather a scoundrel who was loved by the Nazis, but his art is still highly  regarded.  Can you think of anyone whose work is respected but was really a nasty human and had a bad reputation put aside?   Do you plan to see Polanski's The Ghost Writer?  What do you think should happen to Roman Polanski?




  1. I think it's the fact that he left the country and never faced the charges that bothers most people.

    Like you, I don't think much about it. But when I hear his name, the scandal is what comes to my mind first.

  2. I'll have to do some research (thanks for the link!) and see what my thoughts would be!

  3. Sure, I'm boycotting Polanski. But then again, I'm boycotting EVERYONE!

    Actually, rLEE-b, I didn't realize Polanski had directed "Chinatown" until you said so here. I double-checked ya and yer right. Chinatown, of course, was the model used later to make a REALLY good movie: "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".

    I've never seen "The Tenant" or "Repulsion" so I'll add them to my NetFlix queue.

    ~ "Lonesome Dogg" McMe

  4. Very objective article - good points, good comments. I for one will not boycott his film over some decades old sex case where the so called victim is campaigning for his release since years now, and had stated several times that he didn’t rape her. This is not our business to call for his head, nor the tax payer’s burden to pursue it any further while today’s criminals are running around right now doing untold damage, not some old man who’s done nothing but great art in his very tragic life. If you don't mind, I'll link you to a blog that in fact took the greatest efforts to analyse the case in-depth and on a sociopolitical base, for all those who don't have a clear idea about it. It’s well worth reading, and to see that the legal system most of all broke down already then that made him in fact flee the US.

  5. You don't need to judge him based solely on media reports. He PLED GUILTY and was CONVICTED of unlawful sex with a minor. Specifically, he drugged a 13-year-old girl, then raped and sodomized her. I don't think he's learned any lesson other than, if you have enough money and don't get careless, you can get away with it. Yes, there are criminals who are a greater risk to society at this very moment, but that's not the only principle of justice we should be concerned with.

    I probably won't see his movie until he's dead. I think Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby, and The Pianist were amazing, and I think Death and the Maiden is one of the best movies of all time. What can I say, great art is sometimes made by rotten people. I'm going to try not to support him while he can still enjoy it.

  6. Thanks to those who have commented thus far. Anonymous has suggested a link which is very good in going into depth about the subject:

    Despite the fact that the post is very, very long and at times disjointed and rambling, there are many relevant points about the case (most which match up to what I have read previously in other accounts) and some very good logic which makes complete sense to me. The fact that so many industry insiders are behind Polanski, whereas those rallying against him seem to be supporting a political agenda seems to weigh in strongly for me--not that I support entertainment industry insiders that much, but that so much effort is made to attack a productive person like Polanski while other much less significant criminals are championed by liberals.
    Carrie-- I know you probably don't have time for that link, but I would like to know if your opinion remains the same after some scrutiny of some of the facts and arguments presented there. My meagar post and the superficial reporting done by the media really does not do justice to Polanski's cause.

  7. P.S. -- Out of curiosity I looked at Huffington Post site and saw a wealth of material about the Polanski case, most of which I did not read, but here is one good post:

  8. I read this with interest, Being British I only read what is written over here, OK he messed up, but he is a good director and surely if people go to see his films then who are we to judge.
    He will meet a higher judge all in good time.
    Most contorversial topic, everyone is allowed their own opinion.


  9. To be honest, I know very little about this situation. My big worry about boycotting him would be the fact that a lot of innocent people who be affected by the boycott.

  10. Sorry, Lee, had to stop reading that article a few paragraphs in. "She was a druggie slut and he's not a sexual predator just because he liked young girls"? I'm violently repulsed right now.

    Having sex with a 13-year-old is wrong. Having sex with a HIGH 13-year-old is wrong, no matter how she got high. While we're at it, having sex with 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski was wrong. But hey, he's not a predator, he just likes having sex with girls so young that it's illegal to have sex with them.

    She testified that she said no. He pled guilty, then fled the country, doing no time whatsoever. I don't know what kind of "political agenda" you need to have in order to find this unacceptable.

    A final glance at the article shows the author asking "if she was raped, why didn't she run screaming out of the house?" More people should read Alice Sebold's memoir LUCKY. She says she was lucky because she was raped by a total stranger who grabbed her on the street, because her virtue was never called into question. She had moments of total calm during her ordeal, practically chatting with her rapist, because sometimes, that IS how girls and women handle violation. But how unlucky she would have been if the exact same violation had been by someone she knew. Or who was rich and famous.

    Some people say there's a factual he-said-she-said dispute. Hey, that's what TRIALS are for. If you plead guilty to avoid trial, the facts aren't aired openly or debated in court. That's your call. And if you run from the sentence you pled guilty to, I have no sympathy for you.

  11. My original intent of my post was to examine two issues:

    1) Separating the artist or creator from their work or product.
    Do we examine and judge the person and accept or reject that persons work on our findings? In a widely publicized case like Polanski's, some of the issues become widely known. But in all fairness, should we not examine everyone's life and allow that to be the criteria we use to reject or accept their work? For example, if a well known medical researcher, killed or raped someone, was charged, convicted, and fled into exile, and then discovered some amazing life-saving drug while in exile, would we reject their discovery if we knew that person would financially benefit by allowing the discovery to go on the market. It's an extreme example, sure, but my is that a creation can be separated from the creator.

    2) Putting our focus into perspective. Should a 30 year old case, which the purported victim has requested be dropped because it is damaging her life to pursue it, take away focus from current far more serious issues? I'm just suggesting the desire to pursue this case further is not for the benefit of society, but for the satisfaction of the lurid curiosity and entertainment of certain segments of society with diverse and questionable agendas.

    Most people who are familiar with the case have the condensed, Reader's Digest, media version of the story with loaded words and biases. As Carrie stated in her last reply, the website that was linked in a previous comment is very long and as I had said it does the disservice of presenting the facts in a somewhat unorganized manner. Though in fairness to its author, they have stated that the post is an ongoing work in progress that has been added to as more thoughts come in.
    But a careful, logical, fair reading of the material presents a pretty good case.

    If Polanski does get extradited, it will be interesting to see the outcome and hear how the media treats the case. How much more information will dished out to the hungry tabloid-loving public and how will it all be skewed? We'll see I guess.

  12. I read the indeed very long article too and it warned us that it is extensive. It needs going over several times in an objective manner, and not just picking and choosing the points you ‘like’. It includes many relevant issues in view of the sociopolitical times or events of then in contrast to today's, compiled by someone who was obviously there. He throws in other contemporary bits like the 1976 Polanski Vogue with the naked underage girls spread, simply to explain the completely different attitudes towards such issues, which should not be ignored just because we wouldn’t accept them anymore these days.
    It's written objectively enough to see that the author tried to literally get through the mire of the 'he said she said' issues, which in effect differ only in very few if crucial parts. The key points are all there to highlight the general discrepancies of their testimonies, her later inconsistent recalls, her today's full support to see him freed, her mother’s role in it, the pompous judge’s side in the case up to current legal developments which are just as messy and how it came to that. It clearly said to touch on other points as his films or life as well, and if one gives it an objective go, must come to the conclusion that the case is less black and white than most people would want it to be.
    The many comments on both versions are just as interesting, and the effort alone to get this all together should be credited. To stop reading after a few paragraphs because you don't agree with them is simply ignorant, since it might just as well be only one fraction of another important piece to come later to form the bigger picture to understand it all better. This is simple a giant puzzle put together as best as possible from a wealth of resources, with only very few pieces missing to explain what happened three decades ago. It’s an evidently ongoing project and many interesting details are presented you cannot find anywhere else no matter the fractured style, which might break it up in places I don’t find off-putting at all not to read on. If some however simply want to keep blindly believing that Polanski is a rapist and paedophile, they obviously didn’t pay attention to the actual findings and explanations to discredit that. Or read it properly. The medical findings alone debunk the rape and sodomy charges completely, and if people want to keep ignoring her own words of saying that it wasn't rape, that's their problem entirely.

  13. Anon-- your points are well taken from this corner. Sadly, due to media skewing and the preconceived misconceptions of the public who are influenced by this media and the pundits of agendas, it's the lazy person's way out to merely declare, "This is black, and this is white, and that's just the way it is and I don't need to hear or know any more about it--I've made my decision."
    The shallowness of much of the American public -- and I include myself in many cases--is a sad fact. Why think when we can have someone else do it for us? This kind of attitude will indeed come back to haunt us in the future and it will be for something much more vast and of greater significance to the world than the Polanski case.

  14. I've noticed that the shorter version of the article I linked could be more accessible to most, and that the author keeps re-editing it and as things progress. I find it particularly telling how he tries to oblige both sides in the process, from the literal first horrible days of the media circus across the changing times, the many voices, to what literally is going on today. He’s reedited the later paragraphs again and tries to show that in effect, the girl was out of her depth, was pushed by these adults into situations she at the end couldn't handle anymore, but never really said a thing. From her mom's selfish demands to Polanski advances she all just let wash over herself, to her ‘tweaked’ testimony that made it sound so horrible, couldn’t be proven, the plea was struck to ‘make it all go away’ once mom finally woke up to what’s she’s done to her. Polanski naively assumed it was consensual and she later said repeatedly it wasn’t rape, since of course it wasn’t in the classical sense. She said he never harmed her, and he said he never intended to harm her.

    It was basically massive miscommunications on many levels that led to the charges she never wanted, he never really deserved, let alone the judge’s exploitation of the case that forced him to flee. Her calls to end this nightmare fell on deaf ears now that she finally spoke up, and tried her best to help him get the case closed since years now. He unfortunately never defended himself for fear of more judicial and public abuse, and now the law again has its own corrupt ideas not intent on giving them both closure. Here’s the more case only oriented version without the era specific bits and pieces in between overloading it.

    And CKHB - misquoting the article and taking things out of context, ignoring cause and effect for both party's behaviour, simply ignoring the judge's illegal misconduct, doesn't help either. There's nothing black and white about this case in any form. So no, I won't boycott any of his films - I can keep the much maligned man apart from his superior art. Take care all.

  15. I agree with the blogmaster & 'Anon' - I read both the articles and the Wiki entry amongst tons of other stuff, but nothing comes close to his all-encompassing findings no matter the ‘ongoing style’, and in fact, the Wiki page gets reedited constantly to delete vital details, like the medical findings, (I just added again – let’s see for how long). That’s a deliberate attempt to keep the public in the belief Polanski is a monster, when that certainly never was the case as time has proven, and given what 'Novalis' has researched more people should know of.

    His important findings are a direct threat to the haters' intent on keeping this case as black as it can be these days, and the public biased. I for one never saw it that way. I'm ten years Geimer's senior and knew of the case, I was there, and I never believed ‘the victim’s’ claims, since we only knew her name later, and none of them were ever impugned in any trial. I gathered they pressed for that plea bargain at the evidence not supporting her allegations and to avoid a costly trial he would have needed to carry, and we were aware of the judicial shenanigans going on that ultimately forced Polanski into exile.

    Of course, over time she changed her tune and supports him now, but unfortunately we have even more problems with the ruthlessly exploited case, unless someone finally puts an end to it. Polanski was ready to be absentia sentenced three months back, and the judge just jerked him around by refusing to do so, just like the old one had strung him along for a year already. That said, it’s clear that I will keep buying his films, since the only thing he’s guilty of is having been dumb enough to sleep with a minor like so many did, and should long have been forgiven like she has. People demand so when it comes to others, but Polanski’s made an ugly example of the third time now, and it’s about time to end this farce.


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