Marina Zenovich’s ‘Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired’ premiered on HBO channel, U.S., recently to critical acclaim.
A friend of 74-year-old, Paris-based Hollywood filmmaker, Roman Polanski, once observed that “in U.S. he is wanted, in France he is desired.” That sentence sums up the title of the documentary ‘Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,’ which premiered on HBO channel throughout the U.S. recently and won much critical acclaim.
There was so much interest about the documentary that major American dailies commented on it even before the premiere date.
Polanski made hit films such as ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ ‘Chinatown’ and ‘The Pianist’ (2002), for which he received the Oscar. The filmmaker has been living in France since 1978 after he fled the U.S. over a controversy involving a 13 year old girl, Samantha Gailey, that would have led to his arrest.
Marina Zenovich, maker of this brilliant and thought-provoking documentary, while exploring the different systems of justice in the U.S. and France, has done full justice to the creative genius of the director. But the documentary is not just that. Like Truman Capote’s ‘In Cold Blood,’ dealing with the multiple murder in a Kansas farm, it is a product of extensive research and probes the human mind and attitudes.
But Zenovich could not interview two of the most important characters in the human drama, Polanski and the trial judge from Santa Monica, Laurence J. Rittenband. While Polanski refused to co-operate, the judge had died in 1993 at age 88.
Zenovich, it has to be admitted, is more sympathetic towards Polanski and the judge cuts a sorry figure. This fact is arrived at after much research and is corroborated by several witnesses. Those who commented on the trial admitted that Rittenband was not so much concerned with justice as impressing the media which covered the trial. Portrayed as a frustrated hothead, the judge was often influenced by the thought of how the media would be influenced by his rulings.
This view is supported by the victim, Samantha Gailey, who talked freely to Zenovich. Having officially ‘forgiven’ Polanski in the 1990s, she agreed that judge Rittenband was not concerned with delivering justice. “He was a media hound who did not care about me but was orchestrating a show of which I did not want a part.” The media, of course, lapped up the proceedings and crucified Polanski and his unconventional lifestyle. The documentary shows scenes from important Polanski films including ‘Chinatown’ which featured Jack Nicholson. Also seen was the star of ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ Mia Farrow, who praised Polanski. “He was infectious, there was no resisting Roman.”
Hitting below the belt
The documentary repeatedly hit the judge below the belt by referring to his weaknesses such as his fondness for liquor and show business women which did not appear relevant to the story. So were the references to the murder of Sharon Tate, Polanski’s wife who was brutally slain by Charles Manson and his gang. The documentary which is somewhat like a period melodrama exposes the political thinking and media attitude of those days.
Polanski was a free thinker and believed in free love which went against the thinking of those days. In some ways, one is reminded of Charlie Chaplin, who was constantly harassed with false paternity suits instigated at the instance of his enemies who also blamed him for his ‘Communist sympathies.’
Chaplin too left U.S. and settled down in Switzerland but returned in triumph after several years to accept an Honorary Oscar from Hollywood.