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 ...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Uhhh, frankly I actually don't mind a DA ruthlessly chasing a child rapist. I, for one, believe that child rape should be punished by more than 42 days in a prison hospital. I would go so far as to say that people who rape little girls should be in a prison cell for many years.

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