Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

"Excellent"

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired Review


Among the many fascinating things about the HBO documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is its withering scorn for the jackal-like press packs that surrounded Polanski throughout the legal ordeal he went through in Los Angeles in 1977-1978. What's fascinating is how positively quaint and charming it all seems compared to the world we live in today. What would happen if an A-list movie director drugged, raped, and sodomized a 13-year-old girl in Jack Nicholson's Jacuzzi in today's media environment? It would be all TMZ, Perez Hilton, and cable punditry all the time.

Of course, the press wasn't Polanski's biggest problem at the time. The documentary indicts the legal system itself, and especially the presiding judge, Laurence Rittenband, whose reputation is dragged through the mud here. It would be fascinating to hear his response were he still alive. In his place, we get detailed recollections from police investigators, attorneys from both sides, and the victim herself. (Polanski, however, did not participate.)

It was young Samantha Gailey who agreed to do the Jacuzzi photo shoot with Polanski, and her report of what happened that day is what got him arrested. Initially laughing it off as a prudish reaction from a girl who seemed "to know what she was doing," Polanski was soon deep in it as the press villainized him, explored the various "perversions" of his life and films, and reopened old wounds about the shocking murder of his lovely wife Sharon Tate by the Manson family eight years earlier. What was up with this short, creepy European with the beady eyes and the funny accent?

A Holocaust survivor who had found salvation through film and had become the hottest director in town with such hits as Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, Polanski was soon persona non grata, bouncing from hearing to hearing as Judge Rittenband looked for a way to get him into prison as soon as possible, eventually accepting a guilty plea on a single charge as a go-ahead to commit Polanski to 90 days of psychological testing to see if he had a social disorder. The documentary lets both the district attorney and Polanski's lawyer expound in depth on Rittenband's treacherous tactics and his concern about protecting his reputation above all else. So dismayed were the two opponents that they eventually found themselves meeting in the courthouse hallway to discuss ways to get Rittenband thrown off the case.

Fearful that the spiteful Rittenband had even more incentive to lock him away with a stiffer sentence when he was released after just 42 days and enjoyed the freedom to travel to Europe to work on a new picture, Polanski eventually ditched his last courtroom appearance and flew off to France, never to return. He's been there ever since, flourishing and even winning an Oscar for directing The Pianist.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired doesn't forgive Polanski for his crimes. Instead, it makes the case that no matter what happened, it was clear from day one that with that judge and in that environment, Polanski could never have gotten fair treatment. That being the case, the film goes easy on Polanski for running away and choosing exile over uncertain justice. It's a great and somewhat Kafkaesque story that Polanski might have enjoyed directing... had it been fiction.

Dead or alive!



Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 11th December 2008

Distributed by: ThinkFilm

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Fresh: 41 Rotten: 6

IMDB: 7.3 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Marina Zenovich

Producer: , Lisa Yacoub

Starring: Istvan Bajzat as Himself, Steve Barshop as Himself, Marilyn Beck as Herself, Madeline Bessmer as Herself, Pierre-André Boutang as Himself, as Himself, Richard Brenneman as Himself, Michael M. Crain as Himself, Samantha Geimer as Herself, Jim Grodin as Himself, Roger Gunson as Himself, as Himself, Clive James as Himself, as Himself, as Herself, as Himself, Hans Mollinger as Himself, Claus Preute as Himself, Elliot Rittenband as Himself, Marlene Roden as Herself, Lorenzo Semple Jr. as Himself, Fred Sidewater as Himself, as Herself, Debra Tate as Herself, Diane Tschekaloff as Herself, Philip Vannatter as Himself, David Wells as Himself

Also starring:

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