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Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008) - Movie Review

Polanski Case is Still Controversial

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Some 30 years after film director Roman Polanski, at age 44, was accused of having sex with a 13-year old girl, the scandalous case, still controversial and fascinating, is the subject of Marina Zenovich’s documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.

The film’s title refers to the difference in the public's attitude towards Polanski in France, where he currently resides and is the object of desire, and in the U.S., where he is still considered to be a wanted criminal.

Zenovich Profiles Polanski

Using archival footage and interviews with Hollywood celebrities and observers, law enforcers, prosecutors and defense attorneys and the ‘victim,’ Zenovich takes us through events in Polanski’s life--from his childhood in the Krakow ghetto during the 1930s to the shocking murder of his first wife, Sharon Tate, by the Manson family in 1969--leading up to the 1977 incident in which the then 13-year old model, Samantha Geimer, accused him of raping her.

In the film, Polanski is profiled as an extraordinarily creative artist with an unconventional lifestyle, a womanizer who admittedly favored the young, a person whose self indulgences and impulsive unwise decisions nearly ended his career--and brought him to the brink of personal disaster.

Clearly, Polanski was no saint. But Zenovich also presents the judge assigned to the case, Judge Laurence Rittenbrand, as a publicity-seeking, self-aggrandizing, manipulative man who played the case to attract media attention and score points with his golf pals at Hillcrest Country Club. The trial was a travesty--and both the prosecutor and Polanski’s attorney avow their objections to the judge’s bad behavior.

Rather than risk the possibility--likelihood, really--that the judge would renege on an agreed upon plea deal and incarcerate him, Polanski fled to Paris. Ever since, he‘s not been able to travel outside of France, let alone return to the U.S.--even to accept his Oscar in 2002--for fear of being arrested.

Considering Polanski's Case, Not His Art

Zenovich‘s film is a fair and skillful chronicling of the Polanski case, and a study of how the circumstances of celebrity influence the carrying out of justice in the U.S. It is not an in-depth study of the filmmaker’s psychology nor of how events in his life have impacted his films. It is an investigation of the cultural politics of Polanski, rather than of Polanski’s art. And, as such, is intriguing, engaging and relevant to our consideration of contemporary celebrity court cases.
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