Sunday, October 4, 2009

L'Affaire Polanski

Listen to all that claptrap about the Roman Polanski situation. Granted, it's a sensitive subject to many, and you've got lots of intriguing facets. OWH offers a summary:

The term splashed across the headlines is "sex charge." This is not quite accurate. Polanski is wanted for a 31-year-old sex "conviction." He pled guilty to statutory rape, but admitted to drugging and raping a 13-year-old, a crime that could have landed him a much longer sentence. This should clear up any confusion about whether his detainment is evidence of some culture war between American prudishness and European pervishness. Every legitimate legal system would find him guilty.

But questions remain. The authorities have not adequately explained why they waited three decades to nab him. It must be that they resented this 2008 documentary's depiction of his trial as unfair and even illegal. Is it necessary that he return to U.S. to be sentenced for a case with whiskers so long on it? It can scarcely be argued that the California prison system can or should reform this heroic artist.

This is the most valid contention of the pro-Polanski people, which includes moviedom's finest: not that the man is innocent or above the law, but that the application of justice has nothing to offer society in this particular case.

Still, this reality has not quieted the critics of the pro-Polanski crowd. They maintain that his flight to France means that he has not accepted judgment. They also resent Polanski's claim that "there's a different justice for people who are public figures than for those who are not." It is not really notable that his victim believes that the case should be dropped--this is a common situation in sexual abuses.

Finally, an evaluation of his guilt must include an examination of his incredible biography: he was born to Holocaust victims, the Manson family killed his pregnant wife, and since his crime, he has made some okay films on the lam. Polanski is not a menace to society, assuming he won't ever make anything like "The Ninth Gate" again. But his defenders are naive to imagine a sinister conspiracy against him, and he does not deserve their tears.