I have been watching/reading/spotting-before-I-can-turn-away a lot of press on the upcoming Oliver Twist, directed by Roman Polanski. Stephanie Zacharek wrote a glowing review for Salon on 9/23, praising the film's beauty and artistic sensitivity. I must admit, reading it, I felt a little queasy. Maybe it is that I have five planets in Scorpio (you know we Scorpios can really hold a grudge), or maybe it is that I'm overly sensitive to the subject of all child abuse, sexual or otherwise. But I am appalled at the glory and praise we heap upon this man.
Even more repugnant to me was this CNN article about Polanksi which depicts him as a victim of sorts. Though Polanski's people declined an interview with the article's author, the director is depicted as having been wrongly persecuted for 30 years by overzealous D.A.s and law enforcement agencies into hiding in Europe (where, apparently, sex with children is no big deal). The most frightening part of the article for me is the description of him today: "He lives in Paris with his third wife, French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, and their children, and has slowly shed his reputation as a partier. Friends say he is a devoted father who remains young at heart." The article fails to point out -- so I shall -- that Polanski's daughter, Morgane, is a mere one year younger than the girl he abused in 1978. I wonder how he feels now, looking at her every day -- "devoted father" as he is, realizing how very young 13 really is.
I wrote a letter to Salon, which I doubt they'll ever print, seeing as how their own house critic loves, loves, loves this guy. Besides, their entertainment editor is too busy chasing after Kate Moss and her coke stash to be so concerned about one letter in protest of one little movie review. So I figured I'd speak my mind here. Because I can. So there.
Stephanie Zacharek's review of Roman Polanski's "Oliver Twist" evoked so many emotions in me, it was difficult to settle on just one. The fact that filmgoers and the international movie industry continue to laud this man as a brilliant, sensitive artist, to give him ovations at film festivals, to award him with Oscars, just kind of turns my stomach. Is our collective memory truly that short?
Have we really reached the point where we cannot hold our artistic icons to the most basic standards of decency? By his own admission in open court, Roman Polanski drugged and had sex with a 13-year-old child. He knew she was a child -- this was no "she looked 18 to me" misadventure. His obscene excuses -- that it didn't matter because she wasn't a virgin, that her actress mother presented her to him, that the girl knew what she was doing -- only serve to make his actions more despicable.
Roman Polanski has suffered more tragedy and misery in one life than anyone should have to. I would be the first to have compassion for him, had it not been for the crime he committed and his utter refusal to accept responsibility for it. I find this particular film disturbing in light of the fact that making it put children in the path of a man who, had he faced the music in California in 1978, would have certainly been required to register as a sex offender. It is fine that his victim has forgiven him. Good for her -- she deserves to be able to heal in peace. But his victim did not file the charges against him. She was simply the complaining witness. The case was entitled The People of the State of California versus Roman Polanski.
Perhaps Ms. Zacharek is too young to remember 1978. I am not. I was a year out of high school, and I remember this nasty business quite well. It was my first introduction to the reality that a man has different rights, and his behavior is held to different standards than those to which a woman is held. That goes double for a wealthy, famous man, with wealthy, famous friends.
As a person of the state of California who has yet to receive the justice that we are owed by Mr. Polanski, I refuse to see any movie, regardless of its "melancholy glow," which has been crafted by a man who drugged and raped a child. Given what tortures Mr. Polanski has said he experienced as a youth at the hands of Nazis, and his later encounters with senseless violence against his wife and unborn child, he should have been the first to be empathetic to a child who was clearly being exploited by the adults around her. Instead, he just took his own turn at exploiting her, in the most heinous of ways, then ran away and hid to avoid being held accountable.
A man like that has no soul. Art from a soulless man has no value, regardless of its temporal, superficial beauty.