Saturday, October 3, 2009

complicating Polanski

Don't hate. I'm as confused as anyone. But I keep thinking that anyone who is so horribly outraged about support for Polanski might a.) see Marina Zenovich's documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, b.) read Robert Harris' NY Times Op Ed , "Why Arrest Roman Polanski Now?" (09/29/2009). And, although it represents a "fictional" extreme, c.) re-watch L.A. Confidential.

All of this is to wonder ... I mean, the issue isn't completely about Polanski's crime. It's also about the legal system and its flaws, the desire of The Law to have the last word, despite legally-negotiated terms that Polanski had met by serving time in a pscyhiatric facility. I still don't have it all worked out and but of course it's all very troubling. But I see people creating such decisive scenarios in ways that seem to play directly into the LAPD's longstanding public image as the defender of moral decency even in light of their own corruption. Good cop/bad cop. Adversarial rhetoric. With us or against us.

Potential bias disclaimer: While I watched most of the film, I was also called during the screening to serve in the lobby of the Sundance Screening Room, where I am the Theater Manager during the festival. There, I sat with a nervous and exicted Marina Zenovich at the 2008 Sudance Film Festival, generally trying to keep her hydrated and helping her with her cell phone issues (signals are weak on Mt. Timpanogos). Although she wanted to be in the theater, experiencing the audience's reaction, she sat in the lobby and tried to respond to the many calls she was receiving about her film; presumably many were after a purchase and distribution rights. She seemed appreciative of my attempts to help. She was gracious (where some filmmakers are not). So maybe my perspective is colored by the charming impression Zenovich made on me. But then also my view is informed by what I saw on-screen, by my sense that Zenovich had taken great care in creating the film, that she sought to explore beyond the surface of Polanski's crime and into the matter of the legal proceedings with which Polanski had (until it seemed obvious that things had become somehow tainted) mostly complied. Even so, I was struck by how complicated the case was/is, despite my sense of it back then, my sense that Polanski had done a horrible thing and was a Fugitive-capital-"F" and all that that meant to my young mind.

What Zenovich's film makes clear(ish) is this: While much was made in the press of Polanski "fleeing justice," few realize that Polanski's conviction compelled him to serve time in a psychiatric facility, which Polanski did. However, when it became clear to Polanski and others around him (and anyone really looking into the bright lights of the LAPD) that the judge (whom nearly everyone questioned) was going to alter his original ruling (that Polanski would upon leaving the pscyh facility be released for "time served" in the psych facility) in order to make a more profound example of Polanski ... it was then that Polanski fled the country.

I am not here suggesting that there is any obvious "right" or "wrong," but I would love to see the terms of this conversation shift. I myself want to avoid making clear-cut pronouncements about Polanski's recent capture and historical crime and instead look further than the fact of the crime and into the history, into the proceedings, and especially into the present motivations for capturing Polanski now (the latter, what Harris' piece questions). It's just that (thanks to Zenovich's documentary) I see the entire "story" as worthy of careful contemplation of the vexing questions it raises. Zenovich tries ...

being in facebook

i posted a while back about my fluctuating desire to leave facebook because of my insecurities, the timesuck, the mostly surface-level discourses happening there (which has never been a secret or anything because i mean the name pretty much announces the name of the game). and whatnot.

more recently, i am wondering about the extent to which dialogue can happen in fb. it's probably just not cut out for it. mix that possibility (fact) with the fact that many/most of my friends there are colleagues with whom i work and i've got a pretty complicated venue (not a simple partytime) ripe for/with complicated exchanges and misunderstandings.

i am thinking about film, but i could contextualize my concern within the context of any "matter of taste." i see myself and others using fb to identify certain tastes (via a positive response to a particular drink, a negative film review, a powerful reaction to a political move ...), but within any one thread, it seems often to be mostly about agreeing with the original post. this is fine, another way of a.) asserting a taste, b.) identifying with the original poster, c.) affirming the original poster's tastes, d.) sustaining a mood, and e.) all around group belonging identification.

but so when i recently responded to a thread on a particular film with my positive review (against the near-unilaterally negative ones), i expected and even hoped to invite other perspectives to the chat or maybe to encourage someone/anyone to reconsider the film, to recall something about it that had perhaps worked for them, to maybe even reconsider their brittle, sound-bitten reviews. so when more negative reviews poured in and it became clear that my contribution would not be taken up in any of the ways i'd hoped, i took my thoughts down. weak. i know (i have never proposed that i am strong, Helen Reddy, notwithstanding). but it's also an indication of how powerfully fb affects me and not always in productive ways. and but then is it fb? or do i simply not have what it takes to engage in a conversation where i am completely in the minority? (and if so, what am i doing in rhetoric?!). whatever the case, this has me wondering again about fb and the powerfully lingering effects it generates, despite the brevity (or, perhaps certainly because of the brevity) of the assertions that express themselves there.

and it's all just fine. but i am once again pricked and insecure following what should be a simple fb thread. but so maybe i need to learn ... again ... to be quiet, vewy qwiet. and that's probably for the best (she says, from out in patriarchal, group-identity-generating Utah). or f*ck it. maybe not. maybe fb is not "surface" at all but a useful tool for reflecting precisely upon our own trends in rhetorical action and group participation (and if so, i wish i'd had it in first grade).