Saturday, May 22, 2010

Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired

For those who want a quick snapshot of the entire hullabaloo surrounding acclaimed director Roman Polanski and the slew of charges against him, one for having sex with a minor of 13 years, then this documentary by Marina Zenovich will present everything on a silver platter in digestible portions, though with any documentary, objectivity sometimes gets a little bit skewed. If you ask me for an opinion, I'm still a firm believer of serving time if done the crime, and under an imperfect system, there are always instances where we see the rich and the famous escape jail terms, like in Law Abiding Citizen which preached that truth is only what you can prove in a court of law.

In presenting facts and the case itself, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired did a brilliant job in establishing the premise and providing that broad background of the director and his life, which seemed to have been rooted in tragedy from his childhood days during the Holocaust, and including the senseless murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate under the hands of the Charles Manson family. Clips from his iconic films were also included, and parallels somehow uncannily drawn from his darker films to mirror the darker days of his life, which worked in emphasizing his twisted state of mind if you're standing on that side of the fence.

Zenovich also spent considerable time painting the picture of the media frenzy which surrounded Polanski during his younger heydays, and especially during the trial, where a distinction was made between the European and American press, one still fascinated by yet another twist and turn in his life, while the latter firmly demonizing a stranger in their midst, whose demeanour and physical built made it almost perfect as that classical villain out to exploit the meek. It's a media circus built around the director's reputation, which served as a double edged sword according to some as it is this repute that allowed the sensationalism to hit the roof in terms of selling papers.

What's more intriguing in this documentary, is how Zenovich assembled and presented the crux of the film, that on the appointment and backgrounds of the legal eagles handling the case, with talking head interview segments with the lawyers involved. It's a pity that the judge Laurence J Rittenband was not included in modern day interviews because of his passing, but from the archived clips, court documents and testimonies gathered, his is the key which probably made Polanski flee. After all, how can one trust a court presided by a judge with ulterior personal motives ranging from wanting to get the limelight from such a high profile case, to having personal emotions play such a huge part in deciding on punishment, and the benefits of lack thereof to personal reputation.

It's down to Zenovich's skill in assembling the timeline of events, recounting court incidents and evidence that makes this documentary a compelling watch, especially when she launches into a tirade that questions the integrity of the judge through his gerrymandering of the entire legal process and the perversion of justice, and how a judge, competent or otherwise, holds plenty of cloud over the proceedings and punishment, despite flip-flopping on bargains and promises made.

It's been decades since that faithful day of the deed, and both the director and the child back then had already moved on in their lives. It's quite clear that both want to put this episode behind them with even the victim forgiving Polanski, and public opinion as well as that of peers are divided between forgiveness and punishment nonetheless, it's interesting to see how things will develop hereon, after all it has been left hanging in the balance already for so long. Like I mentioned, this documentary somehow portrayed Polanski as a victim of an inconsistent court process yes, but you cannot deny that a crime is a crime, and one has to face the music, famous personality or not.

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