Thursday, January 15, 2009

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

My review of the new Roman Polanski documentary, screening at Vancity this week, is in today's WE.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired


By Andrea Warner

3 stars (out of 5)

Roman Polanski is one of Hollywood’s most polarizing people: semi-tragic figure (he survived the Holocaust; his wife, Sharon Tate, was murdered by Charles Manson); revolutionary director (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, The Pianist); and child molester. His complicated history gets a fresh retelling in director Marina Zenovich’s revealing documentary.

The film opens with an unflinching account of the charges against Polanski resulting from an afternoon he spent photographing 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. Accused of rape, sodomy, and giving drugs to a minor (among other things), Polanski became the focal point of a media circus. After a trial fraught with corruption and injustice, he ultimately fled to France, where he’s stayed in exile for the last 30 years.

It’s fitting that the majority of Wanted and Desired is devoted to exploring the curious motivations of the judge who presided over the case, Laurence J. Rittenband. His damaging machinations, which included striking secret deals with the defense and prosecution while staging proceedings for the press with pre-determined outcomes, ultimately perverted any sense of justice for Gailey or Polanski.

Wanted and Desired contains fascinating, candid interviews with key players in the trial, but, frustratingly, the least interesting one is with a grown-up Gailey, who offers little insight. What makes the documentary so compelling is how Zenovich fleshes out the film with plenty of character-building moments, offering a fully realized portrait of Polanski that, while never exonerating him, effectively illustrates how he’s been cast in the make-believe film version of his own life: visionary, villain, and victim. 

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