Roman Polanski's 'Ghost Writer' doesn't wow them in Berlin -- UPDATED
Roman Polanski's new film, "The Ghost Writer," had its premiere on Friday as part of the first full day of the Berlin Film Festival -- and provoked a mixed response.
Co-written by Polanski and novelist Robert Harris, the film tells the story of a former British prime minister (Pierce Brosnan) who enlists a writer (Ewan McGregor) to ghost write his memoir. As the former PM, living in exile in the United States, fights charges that he assisted the CIA in illegal torture, the writer discovers information about his new employer that plunges him headlong into a world of Polanski-esque paranoia and deception.
Writing for indieWire, Brian Brooks noted "mixed reactions" to "The Ghost Writer," saying that "unfortunately, it seemed the film only received a tepid response after its initial screening." As more reviews have begun to appear online, the critical reaction to Polanski's latest was perhaps best summed up by David Hudson. Writing for the website the Auteurs, he said that " 'The Ghost Writer' won't be toppling governments or, most likely, any best-of-2010 lists, but it's a fine minor entertainment."
Polanski, still under house arrest in Switzerland while awaiting possible extradition to Los Angeles, was not in attendance at the festival. The director's absence was noted during the news conference for the film, with producer Robert Benmussa quoted as saying that "not having Roman at the center of this podium seems very strange for us all."
UPDATE -- 9:34 AM, SATURDAY: The film drew a stronger reaction at a screening for Los Angeles reviewers and tastemakers Friday night. Most in attendance were piqued or even heartened by the effort, which proved to be a taut thriller and an effective mood piece. We'll see what the critics say....--S.Z.
-- Mark Olsen
Photo: Roman Polanski. Credit: Roberto Pfeil / Associated Press