I previously addressed the rising controversy over the crook-artist formerly known as artist Roman Polanski shortly after the director took some strides toward getting his case dropped, trying to use the technicalities of the law to his advantage (claiming malfeasance on the part of the original sitting judge for the case, now deceased, who was coached by a deputy district attorney outside the boundaries of the law; this was documented in Marina Zenovich’s pointed film, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” (available online through Netflix Watch Instantly), and was cited by Polanski’s legal team) despite his elected fugitive status. Fortunately, the LA Court was savvy to his ways, and his efforts were stymied with a ruling stating no steps would be taken toward dismissing his case without the physical presence of Polanski in the court room. A hearing was set for last May, and, to no one’s surprise, Polanski did not show up.
(Update: And yesterday, David Wells, the former deputy district attorney who made the claims that he coached Judge Laurence J. Rittenband on sentencing Polanski, issued a formal retraction saying these were false claims. He only wanted to inflate his own ego on the camera, and so he lied that his involvement in the case was more substantial than his actual position. “It never happened,” he added. This undercuts the basis for Polanski’s dismissal.)
Last Saturday justice finally caught up with the director. While traveling to Switzerland to receive an award at the Zurich Film Festival, Polanski was detained by Swiss police on a standing interpol order issued at the request of the LA District Attorney. Expedition to the US is pending, with Polanski’s legal team, which I’m sure is big enough to fully field both sides in a football game, pedaling in high gear to stop these orders. His team’s most recent acquisition is Reid Weingarten, a Washington heavy who rubs shoulders with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. This likely means no end in sight, but one can hope.
The initial (premature) reaction was surprise in Europe. The cultural minister for France stated he was “shocked.” Over 100 film industry bigwigs—including some of my favorite directors, such as Pedro Almodóvar, Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, and Wong Kar-Wai—signed a petition expressing “stupefaction” over the arrest. Part of this reaction is due to the fact Polanski has traveled to Switzerland, where he maintains a home, on many occasions as a fugitive and the timing of his arrest—why not one of the countless other times he was in the country in full public regale?—stunned many of his friends and colleagues. (To suppress further bafflement, the LA DA’s office issued a timeline of their efforts over the years, which include a close call in Israel two years ago.)
Other public support was especially ill informed, or at the least utterly stupid. Noted philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy was forgiving of the detained director, stating Polanski “perhaps had committed a youthful error.” Really? So a 43-year-old drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl, even if she looked like she “could be any age up to 25” (Thanks for the insight Angelica Huston!), qualifies as youthful error?
Granted, the more heinous elements of the crime—such as the drugging and the raping part—were dropped in a plea bargain 31 years ago, leaving only the “having sex with a minor” crime. This is still a crime. Whatever illicit actions the presiding judge took should not excuse Polanski’s (now this is in jest) “youthful error.” While an actual ruling, if we ever get one, should reflect no more than this crime, any ruling would be a relief if a sense of closure could be brought to this decades long spectacle.
I particularly appreciated the view of Luc Besson. It would be far fetched to say Besson’s contributions to the film world—such as “The Fifth Element” and “La Femme Nikita”—are of a caliber higher than fluff, but they are for the most part incredibly watchable, and sometimes almost revolutionary. Anyhow, even though he is an acquaintance of Polanski, his name was notably absent from the aforementioned petition. Taken from the end of the NY Times article:
“Our daughters are good friends,” Mr. Besson said in a radio interview with RTL Soir. “But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone.”
One can hope.