Director: Marina Zenovich
Year Released: 2008
Zenovich reviews the circus-like court case involving Polish director Roman Polanski's druggin' an' rapin' (not the actual legal terms) a 13-year-old starlet in Jack Nicholson's house that eventually led to the Pole scampering off to France. While I am not saying this should have been a finger-wagging, Bible-waving work of moral indignation, I'm a little surprised at how this whitewashes Polanski to a certain degree, focusing more of its attention on the oddities of the court case, turning the attention-seeking judge (who, we're told, also liked champagne and had several girlfriends, as if these things mattered) into the actual villain of the film. Now, I understand that Polanski's life was extraordinarily tragic - he lost his parents to the Nazis, his wife and unborn child to the Manson Murderers - but that doesn't give someone a proper excuse to do something that would land a 'regular' 'non-artistic' fellow in jail for about twenty years, but there the film goes, saying that he's a talented artist, talented artists aren't like the rest of us, that the girl's mother 'set up' Polanski, that the girl was not a virgin when Roman got in there, that even both lawyers thought he should have gotten probation. Criticism of him is elusive - even people that knew Polanski thought he was callous and slimy, including British drama critic Kenneth Tynan ("R. never apologizes, no matter how he offends") - and while I didn't expect a piece on him like the one Martin Amis wrote and was collected in Visiting Mrs. Nabokov (yes, this is a book recommendation), a little toughness on its subject wouldn't have been out of line (though I will add that his troubles from the Summer of 2009 have a Kafkaesque quality to them, and that at this point in time enough is certainly enough: aren't there more dangerous people in the world to worry about?). It's also interesting to note how the documentary excises David Thomson's remark - in the extras section of the DVD - about how Polanski's work has suffered after the trial - I'd argue that he hasn't made a good film since he left the United States (though Bitter Moon has its defenders).