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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Roman Polanski

Latest Roman Polanski chapter puts the saga back where it started

July 12, 2010 |  2:25 pm

Some clarity emerged on Monday about Roman Polanski's legal and geographic status and, as you may have heard, he won't be extradited to the U.S.

The Los Angeles district attorney's office had hoped that the Swiss government would extradite the fugitive director. Instead, the Swiss Federal Department of Justice and Police ruled, in a dramatic turn, that the L.A. district attorney's office had failed to turn over requested documents, and also said Polanski could reliably expect not to be arrested and deported because the U.S. knew of his frequent presence in Switzerland over the last few years but never acted on it.

The upshot is that Polanski is free from the Swiss house arrest that he has been under since the fall and can return to France, where he has lived for more than 30 years and where he had said he hopes to return once the house arrest ended. Essentially, it puts us back where we were 10 months ago -- Polanski can travel to select European countries with little fear of extradition.

The interesting question is now whether he'll indeed travel to any more film festivals. The initial arrest happened when Polanski traveled to the Zurich Film Festival, and though he can ostensibly move, with little risk, to countries from which extradition would be tricky, it's an open question whether he'll take that chance.

As for his broader Hollywood career, the Swiss court's decision means that Polanski can get back to directing. Polanski did some of his best work in a while with this year's moody thriller "The Ghost Writer," creatively using coastal Germany to stand in for the coastal U.S. Those who are fans of his films -- regardless of their opinions of his character -- might be heartened to know he could soon be working again.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of 'The Ghost Writer.' Credit: Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment


Directors want Roman Polanski exonerated

Switzerland rejects extradition request in Roman Polanski case

Roman Polanski is a free man -- with some key conditions

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Cannes 2010: Directors want Polanski exonerated

May 13, 2010 |  4:25 pm

Roman Polanski has gotten support from a broad range of Hollywood personalities. Now a few auteurs are joining the crowd, at the exact moment a spotlight is shining on them.

Pol Bertrand Tavernier, Mathieu Amalric and Jean-Luc Godard — all of whom have films at this year's Cannes Film Festival ("La Princesse de Montpensier," "Tournee" and "Socalisme," respectively) — are among those who have signed a petition asking the Swiss government to refuse an extradition request from California, just a few days after a California judge denied Polanski's request to unseal testimony in the 33-year-old case.

The group wrote that it was aiming for "a gesture of solidarity accompanied by an appeal to Swiss justice" and was "signed by film makers, and only film makers, who have in common that, like Godard, their works have been named as Official Selections of this year’s Cannes Film Festival." It seeks, the petition said, to free Polanski from "the Kafkaesque isolation that has been his lot for the past seven months."

French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy, on whose site the petition was first posted, added that "No matter how brilliant the films presented at this new festival, a man will shine in his blinding absence: Roman Polanski." (Of course Polanski would likely be absent even without the extradition request, as he has no new movie to show.)

Still, the petition does come from a group, and at an event, that has long been friendly to the beleaguered filmmaker. Polanski has premiered several movies here over his illustrious career, winning the Palme d'Or eight years ago for "The Pianist."

It hasn't come up yet, but you can bet at least some of the directors — both those who did and those who didn't sign the petition — will be asked about Polanski as they promote their films. And when it does comes up, you can bet that many will be as passionate about the U.S. calling off the extradition as they are about the power of global cinema.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of "The Ghost Writer." Credit: Summit Entertainment

Roman Polanski -- defiant, patient and everything in between -- finally speaks out

May 2, 2010 |  9:01 pm

Simply writing the words Roman Polanski can evoke reactions both passionately defensive and virulently angry. So we can only imagine how readers will feel upon hearing words from the embattled/polarizing director himself.

Pol As you may have heard, for the first time since he was arrested in Switzerland more than seven months ago, Polanski has spoken out. The director had been considered the interview get to end all interview gets (although he had, in his own way, communicated with the moviegoing masses with the release of his well-received "The Ghost Writer" in the U.S. earlier this year). But like so many in this blog-happy age, he decided to go directly to the public -- "without any intermediaries," in his phrase -- posting an entry on Sunday on the blog of French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy.

In an unusually personal passage, Polanski pleads for clemency. "I am not going to try to ask you to pity my lot in life. I ask only to be treated fairly like anyone else." Then, in  eight distinct statements that begin with the phrase "I can remain silent no longer," Polanski recounts the ways he says he felt misled and mistreated by California legal authorities.

The essence of Polanski's claim is that, as his supporters have argued, he was led to believe that his time in a state facility in Chino would constitute his full sentence, and has been frustrated for the past three decades as U.S. authorities have maintained otherwise. "The request for my extradition addressed to the Swiss authorities is founded on a lie," he writes.

"I can remain silent no longer because for over 30 years my lawyers have never ceased to insist that I was betrayed by the judge, that the judge perjured himself, and that I served my sentence," referring to the decision by Laurence Rittenband to potentially deport and/or sentence Polanski to more jail time after the time served in Chino, which prompted Polanski's fleeing in September 1977.

Perhaps most substantively, Polanski says that the current extradition request is informed by both personal resentments and publicity calculations. "I can no longer remain silent because the United States continues to demand my extradition more to serve me on a platter to the media of the world than to pronounce a judgment concerning which an agreement was reached 33 years ago."

Polanski also notes Marina Zenovich's 2008 documentary "Wanted and Desired," which, although it has been responsible for both the authorities and the public looking at the case in a new light, Polanski argues may also have paradoxically created the conditions for a vendetta. Zenovich's film "not only highlighted the fact that I left the United States because I had been treated unjustly; it also drew the ire of the Los Angeles authorities, who felt that they had been attacked and decided to request my extradition from Switzerland, a country I have been visiting regularly for over 30 years without let or hindrance."

Citing that he has mortgaged his apartment to post bail and noting the limitations created by his house arrest in a home in the Swiss mountain town of Gstaad, Polanski concludes with a further plea. "Such are the facts I wished to put before you in the hope that Switzerland will recognize that there are no grounds for extradition, and that I shall be able to find peace, be reunited with my family, and live in freedom in my native land" (a reference to France, where he was born and his family lives, and to which he has been unable to return as he remains under house arrest pending the U.S. extradition request).

As it has from the beginning, the Polanski case is about more than just one filmmaker and his battle, just or not, against the U.S judicial system. It touches on several hot-button issues: child protection (complicated further when the child, now grown, says she has been protected enough), and the treatment of Hollywood personalities and all the various standards applied to them.

Is this statement enough to change anyone's opinion, least of all the U.S. district attorneys who can end the extradition request? Like almost no other polarizing figure in this polarized age, the mention of Polanski gets passions burning and tongues wagging. Which means the answer is: probably not. The blog entry may ease Polanski's internal sense of unease. What it won't do is change minds. In fact, the comments are just likely to harden them. New evidence in the case didn't affect most people's opinions, so words from the man himself will likely only embolden those calling for the dismissal of charges -- and once again raise the ire of those who feel he hasn't been brought to justice.

-- Steven Zeitchik

(Follow me on Twitter.)

Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of "The Ghost Writer."
Credit: Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment

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Forget extradition -- Roman Polanski feels the love

February 21, 2010 | 11:26 am

Pol He may be a polarizing figure in the news, but cineastes continue to embrace Roman Polanski.

The director’s literary thriller "The Ghost Writer" attracted strong audiences to the art houses where it opened this weekend, earning an average of $44,000 per screen in two theaters in Los Angeles and two theaters in New York.

The Summit Entertainment movie stars Pierce Brosnan as an embattled former British prime minister and Ewan MacGregor as the ghostwriter hired to pen his memoirs. It's more commercial than that sounds, though, as it basically tracks MacGregor following a conspiracy/political coverup. At its best moments, it harks back to the director's paranoia-themed work of several decades ago.

Polanski has been the subject of controversy as U.S. prosecutors continue to try to extradite him from Switzerland over statutory rape charges first filed in 1978. But hardcore fans of both Polanski and art-house film appeared unruffled by headlines and turned out in dedicated numbers.

They also seemed relatively pleased after they saw the movie, handing the film a respectable B+ CinemaScore.

The news is consistent with what many observers have said: Film fans care when stars are in the news, but they're probably not going to let a controversy over a director stop them from buying a ticket to his movie. Or, even more pointedly, they may buy a ticket in support of said filmmaker.

Indeed, the business came on the same weekend that Polanski found favor with another jury. No, not that kind of jury -- he won the Silver Bear award for best director at the Berlin International Film Festival, where his movie premiered. Needless to say, Polanski, who is under house arrest and was taken into custody at the last film festival he attended, in Zurich, did not turn up in person to accept the prize.

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of "The Ghost Writer." Credit: Guy Farrandis / Summit Entertainment

Roman Polanski's 'Ghost Writer' doesn't wow them in Berlin -- UPDATED

February 12, 2010 |  4:00 pm

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.

Pola 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


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