Roman Polanski may be moving on to the Dreyfus affair for his next film. But the polarizing director found time to make a pit stop and shoot "The Therapy," a short starring Ben Kingsley as a therapist and Helena Bonham Carter as his clueless patient, in a piece that doubles as a Prada commercial.
Polanski made a rare public appearance at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday to showcase the short and introduce a new cut of his 1979 romance "Tess." He was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the surprisingly young crowd, much of which was born after "Tess" was released. The audience whooped at the new short and then sat for a restored cut of the old film, an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles."
"Therapy" -- which has that wide-angle, glossy look that Polanski embraced in "Carnage" -- has Bonham Carter's society woman prattling on about her society-woman problems, while an increasingly distracted Kingsley begins paying attention instead to her fur coat that's hanging on a coat rack. Oblivious to his patient's confessionals, he's soon caressing the fabric before eventually swaddling himself in it.
It's not clear where the high-end ad will eventually run.
Decked out in a tuxedo in front of one of Cannes' smaller screening rooms, Polanski spoke briefly but didn't address the elephant in the room -- the legal situation that has kept him out of the U.S. for more than three decades. Nor did he talk about a new documentary that has him reflecting on his complicated life.
He did, however, offer a thought on "Therapy." Speaking in French (not as fluent as you'd expect), he said that "films could be as good short as long."
And he indulged in some reminiscing about "Tess." Aided by actress Natasha Kinski and others from the film, who stood at the front of the theater with him before the screening, he compared making a movie to giving birth to a child.
He then thanked those who restored the film and, when the camera phones and cheering had both gone down, took a seat with the audience, where he proceeded to watch his film for the next 2 1/2 hours.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Roman Polanski arrives for a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP / Getty images