Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5.
USA/United Kingdom, 2008. HBO Documentary Films, Graceful Pictures, British Broadcasting Corporation, Antidote Films. Screenplay by Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan, Marina Zenovich. Cinematography by Tanja Koop. Produced by Jeffrey Kusama-Hinte, Lila Yacoub, Marina Zenovich. Music by Mark De Gli Antoni. Film Editing by Joe Bini.
It’s one of the most notorious celebrity-related crime cases in history, so confused by rumour and hearsay that this film’s desire to set the record straight is admirable to say the least. Roman Polanski was already an established superstar filmmaker when police arrested him for unlawful sexual intercourse with a thirteen year-old model. The young woman was being photographed by Polanski for a magazine spread celebrating beautiful young girls, and when the filmmaker took her to Jack Nicholson’s house to finish the set (the star was away at the time), their session ended in physical activity that she testified was the result of being given recreational drugs. Polanski was taken to trial, then before final sentencing fled the United States for Paris and has never returned since. What this film does is to investigate the details of the case with testimony from the legal minds involved, garnering terrific interviews from the lawyers on both sides, as well as the now-grown victim of the incident herself, who settled with Polanski in a civil suit years later and has publicly forgiven him. These direct eyewitnesses reveal the possibility that Polanski, while in no way, shape or form innocent of the charges, was being set up to fail by a judge with ulterior motives and that despite his guilt was not necessarily given a fair trial. The details are for you to enjoy in this easily watchable documentary, though what it unfortunately falls short of is celebrating what it was that put the man in his celebrated position to begin with. Interviews with his friend (and costume designer) Anthea Sylbert and Rosemary’s Baby star Mia Farrow attempt to make sure we know why the world was so taken by him, but the film does not quite get at the brilliance of the artist who continues to make vibrant, original pictures that resonate even now when he’s working in his 80s; there has to be a reason why a sex scandal did not kill his career, and it cannot just be the fact that he got away with it. The description of his childhood and origins, surviving occupied Poland and seeing his parents killed in the Holocaust, is a lot more effective in terms of background information, but the film would have benefited from more of the artist and not just the man. All the same, it puts to rest a lot of misconceptions about the case and is highly engaging and informative.