24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Roman Polanski

Cannes 2012: Roman Polanski receives some therapy

May 22, 2012 | 11:23 pm

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.


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-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Roman Polanski arrives for a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday. Credit: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP / Getty images


Cannes 2012: Is Roman Polanski seeking some image rehab?

May 17, 2012 |  4:23 pm



Roman Polanski isn’t one for public appearances these days. And film festivals probably aren’t the director's favorite place in any event; it was only three years ago that he was arrested while trying to attend one.

But this year’s Cannes Film Festival is subtly turning into Roman-ville.

The Paris-born, Poland-raised director hovers over the festival with a new documentary, “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir,” in which he is seen or heard on camera for nearly all of its 94 minutes, sharing thoughts about his life (including his legal travails) with longtime friend Andrew Braunsberg. The film screened to a warm reception from the Cannes faithful on Thursday.

On Monday, Polanski will hover over the festival more literally — the Paris-dwelling director is scheduled to come to Cannes for a special screening of “Tess,” his 1979 romance that was the first film he made after fleeing the U.S. on pending statutory rape charges. He may even make some remarks introducing the film, according to one person who was briefed on the director's plans.

“Memoir,” a documentary filmmaker who specializes in Hollywood named Laurent Bouzereau, is a straightforward conversation between Hollywood producer Braunsberg and Polanski from when Polanski was under house arrest in his Gstaad chalet. At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty about the director’s future — a Swiss court had yet to reject a U.S. attorney’s extradition request — but Polanski appears calm, recalling events from his earliest days in Nazi-occupied Poland to the present. He describes details from his childhood, with friends and family members ripped away from him by the SS, that might soften even the hardest Polanski hater.

The filmmaker makes no excuses for his sex crime, but he clearly feels he paid the price. He also wants to correct misperceptions, such as his fleeing being an act of bail-jumping. “There was no bail,” he reminds in the film. And he apologizes to his victim, Samantha Geimer — while still taking a shot at the way the media has treated her.

The movie is coming out in several European countries, including Italy, where it's being released this weekend. There is not yet a deal in place in the U.S. — though as Braunsberg told 24 Frames after the screening, that’s unquestionably the most important venue for the director.

Polanski apparently deliberated for two months before deciding he wanted to sit for the documentary.  What motivated him to step out of the shadows? Despite a lifelong skepticism of the press, he might at 78 finally be interested in defining himself instead of allowing strangers to do it for him, Braunsberg said.

“There is only story. And that’s the true story you see in this film,” Braunsberg told 24 Frames after the screening. (Polanski also recently decided to make a movie about the Dreyfus affair, a decision that could easily be read as a statement of his belief that he too has been railroaded by a prejudicial justice system.)

Before the screening, Braunsberg told the audience he felt the movie was a step toward doing what had never been done, the first phase of a potentially larger process of explanation. “This is the beginning of the beginning of who Roman is,” he said. “What you are about to see is an image of Roman from Roman's own mouth.”


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— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Roman Polanski in "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir." Credit: Pathe International.

Roman Polanski to direct movie about the Dreyfus affair

May 9, 2012 | 12:48 pm




Roman Polanski, a director who has had extensive personal experience with a justice system he and supporters believe wronged him, will make a movie about another exceptionally high-profile trial: the Dreyfus affair.

Polanski will direct “D,” a political thriller based on the story of the French soldier who was wrongly accused of spying.

The director has had an interest for many years in directing a cinematic take on the story of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, who in the late 1890s was one of the few Jewish officers in the French Army. Accused of passing secrets to Germany, Dreyfus was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1894 until he was cleared of all charges 12 years later.

“I have long wanted to make a film about the Dreyfus Affair, treating it not as a costume drama but as a spy story,” Polanski said in a statement.  “In this way one can show its absolute relevance to what is happening in today’s world—– the age-old spectacle of the witch-hunt of a minority group, security paranoia, secret military tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, governmental cover-ups and a rabid press.”

A press release noted that the Dreyfus affair was one of the most "sensational political scandals and miscarriages of justice in history."

The movie could stir up Polanski's well-established corps of critics, who have long said that Polanski's own story, in which he fled to France rather than serve a long sentence in the U.S. on statutory rape charges, was a miscarriage in its own right.

Robert Harris, who also penned Polanski’s “The Ghost Writer,” will write the screenplay. The film will also reunite Polanski with producers Robert Benmussa and Alain Sarde, who worked on “Ghost Writer” and “The Pianist.”

“D” is Polanski’s follow-up to last year’s “Carnage,” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival.


'Carnage' review: Civilized adults descend into chaos

NY Film Festival: Polanski gets his U.S. welcome wagon

Venice Film Festival: Early thumbs up for Polanski's 'Carnage'

— Emily Rome

Photo: Roman Polanski on the set of "The Pianist." Credit: Guy Ferrandis/Focus Features.

'Carnage:' Jodie Foster has no sense of humor [video]

December 16, 2011 |  2:23 pm

Opening Friday, "Carnage," director Roman Polanski's adaptation of Yasmina Reza's stage play "God of Carnage," tells the story of two sets of parents who come together to discuss an altercation involving both of their sons and descend into bitter squabbling inside the confines of a New York apartment.

The film stars Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz, Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, and Reza told the Times that she was quite pleased with the A-list cast. "They were so right in each part, so I was very thrilled and confident," she said of the actors -- two of whom, Winslet and Foster, were nominated for Golden Globess Thursday for their performances in the film.

Reza, whose other works include the international hit dramatic comedy “Art,” said she previously hadn’t wanted to adapt any of her works for the screen. But her friendship with Polanski, whom she has known for 20 years, helped persuade her to write a screenplay for “Carnage." Reza first met the Oscar-winning director of “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby” when Polanski asked her to translate his stage adaptation of Franz Kafka's "The Metamorphosis."

"Roman saw all my plays and followed my work, but we never spoke about doing something together," Reza told The Times in an interview. "It was for me really very obvious that he might be the most right person to do it."

In this exclusive video clip, the bickering between the couples has already begun.


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'Carnage' review: Civilized adults descend into chaos

-- Reed Johnson and Gina McIntyre

'Carnage': John C. Reilly and Christoph Waltz on Roman Polanski [video]

November 9, 2011 | 11:45 am

John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet are the contentious couples at the heart of Roman Polanski's "Carnage." Adapted from the award-winning play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, "Carnage" takes place in real-time in a Brooklyn apartment, as the duos debate how to handle a scuffle between their two sons.

In this video from the Envelope Screening Series, Reilly and Waltz discuss their experience with the play, and trepidations about working with Polanski.


Early thumbs up for Polanski's 'Carnage'

N.Y. Film Festival: Polanski gets his U.S. welcome wagon

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--Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Jodie Foster as Penelope Longstreet, Kate Winslet as Nancy Cowan, Christoph Waltz as Alan Cowan, John C. Reilly as Michael Longstreet in the movie "Carnage." Credit: Guy Ferrandis / Sony Pictures Classics

NY Film Festival: Polanski gets his U.S. welcome wagon

October 1, 2011 |  4:13 pm

At the North American premiere of Roman Polanski's new movie on Friday night, the auteur's specter hung over the New York Film Festival's Lincoln Center with a creepy ethereality that would have fit nicely in, well, a vintage Roman Polanski film.

"Carnage," an adaptation of the stage hit "God of Carnage," played to the festival's opening-night crowd of cineastes, society types and film executives who, judging by the reaction, were almost unanimously sympathetic to the polarizing director.

Barred from entering the United States on longstanding statutory rape charges, Polanski of course didn't turn up. But his screenwriting collaborator, playwright Yasmina Reza; his producer, an up-and-comer named Said Ben Said; and actors John C. Reilly and Jodie Foster each took the stage before the screening, their presence offering a kind of implicit tribute to the director. (Reilly and Foster's co-star, Christoph Waltz, had been scheduled to make the trip but had to scrap it at the last moment because of an undisclosed accident; fellow performer Kate Winslet was also not there.)

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Venice Film Festival: Early thumbs up for Polanski's 'Carnage'

September 1, 2011 | 11:27 am

John reilly kate winslet and cristoph waltz at venice film festival

Roman Polanski's "Carnage" had its world premiere Thursday at the Venice Film Festival, and early reviews -- rather glowing -- are trickling in. The movie, adapted from the Tony-winning play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza, is a dark comedy about two parental couples who meet after one of their sons strikes another on the playground. It will open in the U.S. in December, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. (It's also the opening selection of this year's New York Film Festival.)  

Writing in Variety, Justin Chang says: "The gloves come off early and the social graces disintegrate on cue in 'Carnage,' which spends 79 minutes observing, and encouraging, the steady erosion of niceties between two married couples. But the real battle in Roman Polanski's brisk, fitfully amusing adaptation of Yasmina Reza's popular play is a more formal clash between stage minimalism and screen naturalism, as this acid-drenched four-hander never shakes off a mannered, hermetic feel that consistently betrays its theatrical origins."

In the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy writes: "Roman Polanski's mastery of films within small spaces is evident in his adaptation of the Yasmina Reza play."

The film stars Jodie Foster, John C. Reilly, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet.

Lee Marshall, opining in the London Evening Standard, says Foster "gives a wicked, Oscar-worthy comic performance" as the neurotically thin, bleeding-heart liberal mother of the victim.

David Gritten, writing in the Telegraph, says Waltz, "as the rudest man in the room, gets the best lines. It’s well-acted and giddily enjoyable, if slightly less so once the characters start to analyse their descent into barbarism."


-- Julie Makinen

Photo: John C. Reilly, left, Kate Winslet and Christoph Waltz at the Venice Film Festival. Credit: Claudio Onorati / European Pressphoto Agency

Polanski's 'Carnage' to open New York Film Festival

July 29, 2011 |  2:10 pm

Roman Polanski's latest film, "Carnage," based on Yasmina Reza's Tony Award-winning play "God of Carnage," is set to open the 49th annual New York Film Festival, which starts Sept. 30 and continues through Oct. 16. The announcement was made Friday by the Film Society of Lincoln Center.

"Carnage," which chronicles an evening meeting between two Brooklyn couples after their children are in a playground fight, is one of the prestige picks of the fall. The film, which stars Jodie Foster, Kate Winslet, Christoph Waltz and John C. Reilly, was also selected for the Venice Film Festival. The New York screening will mark the film's North American premiere.

Polanski's first feature, "Knife in the Water," screened at the first New York Film Festival in 1963.


Venice Film Festival lineup: Polanski, Friedkin, Cronenberg

Around Town: Roman Polanski, Elvis Presley and French film legend Claude Chabrol

January 27, 2011 |  5:00 am


Roman Polanski, the Oscar-winning filmmaker who is still a wanted fugitive in the U.S., is being feted this weekend at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre with a four-day retrospective.

The programming kicks off with his 1962 feature debut, the Polish thriller, "Knife in the Water," which was nominated for a foreign-language film Oscar, and his 1971 adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy "Macbeth," starring Jon Finch and Francesca Annis. Scheduled for Friday are  his seminal 1974 film noir, "Chinatown," which was penned by Robert Towne, and stars Jack Nicholson as private eye J.J. Gittes, and his creepy 1976 thriller, "The Tenant," in which he also stars.

Saturday's offerings are  1965's "Repulsion," Polanski's second film and first in English, starring Catherine Denueve as a woman who loses her mind, and his first American film, 1968's deliciously terrifying "Rosemary's Baby," starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes and Ruth Gordon in her Oscar-winning performance.

The festival concludes Sunday with the rarely seen 1966 thriller "Cul-De-Sac," starring Denueve's sister, Francoise Dorleac, and his 1967 comedy "The Fearless Vampire Killers," in which Polanski also stars with his then-wife Sharon Tate, who was tragically murdered two years later.

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Kenneth Turan's film pick of the week: Roman Polanski short films

November 4, 2010 |  7:50 am


Before he became tabloid fodder, before he directed such remarkable features as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby," Roman Polanski made seven short films, most of them while he was a student at Poland's Lodz Film School. One of them, 1958's award-winning "Two Men and a Wardrobe,"
is well-known, but the others are rarely if ever screened.

Now the Polish Cultural Institute in New York has set these shorts on a journey around this country, with stops scheduled at New York, Washington, Chicago, Seattle and Austin, Texas, among other cities. Their Los Angeles appearance is at hand, set for the Cinefamily at 611 N. Fairfax Ave. at 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Traveling with the films is a group called Sza/Za, described as an "experimental electroacoustic duo from Warsaw." They've composed a new score for the screenings, which are also intended to pay tribute to Krzysztof Komeda, a key figure in Polish jazz who worked extensively with Polanski.

-- Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times film critic

Photo credit: Janus Films


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