Earlier this year, Roman Polanski's new movie An Officer And A Spy won a major award at the Venice Film Festival -- as did Joker, presumably because the theme of the festival this year was "dirtbags." Polanski is in the news yet again after being publicly accused by former actress Valentine Monnier of raping her in 1975, when she was 18, which Polanski denies. This most recent accusation prompted protests which successfully shut down the Paris premiere of his new movie. Which is somewhat surprising, given the narrative we've been fed about Europe's supposed embrace of Polanski.
As you may know, Polanski was arrested in 1977 for raping a 13-year-old girl. As part of a deal with the prosecution, he pleaded guilty to "unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor," but then he fled to Europe before he could be sentenced. Meaning he's now technically a fugitive, and not a cool "Harrison Ford in a comfy sweater" kind. Splitting his time between France and Poland (he has dual citizenship), it always seemed as though Polanski continued to be celebrated as an artistic genius in Europe, while us backwards Americans couldn't get past that pesky "raping a child" business. Marina Zenovich's 2008 documentary on the case concludes with producer Andrew Braunsberg making that very point, claiming that "in France [Polanski's] desired, and in America he's wanted." Which is what inspired the film's title, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired.
But that's not really true. In 2009, Polanski was arrested in Switzerland, thanks in part to that documentary, which "reopened much of the case." While Swiss officials considered whether to extradite Polanski to the U.S. (they ultimately didn't), polling found that 65-75% of people in France thought he should be extradited. And in Poland, polls of Poles found that less than 25% wanted him to "escape another trial." So it's less that he's desired, and more that his fellow citizens think he's a piece of crap who should GTFO.
Conversely, around the same time, Americans were surprisingly chill about the whole thing. Polanski won the Oscar for Best Director in 2003 for The Pianist, and after the 2009 arrest, he received a number of cringeworthy defenses from celebrities. Like Whoopi Goldberg, who claimed on The View that Polanski hadn't committed "rape-rape." And as further proof of what a topsy-turvy world we were living in just ten years ago, the moral high ground on this issue belonged to [swallows bile] Fox News, which published an op-ed condemning her comments.
There was also a petition to release Polanski which was signed by many filmmakers, including Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, and ... Woody Allen. Oh yeah, and it was spearheaded by Harvey Weinstein. Most egregiously, these casual defenses ignored the possibility that the '77 case wasn't an isolated incident, but part of a pattern of abuse. In the #MeToo climate of 2017, four women came forward with claims that Polanski sexually assaulted each of them when they were still minors, the youngest being just ten at the time. In conclusion, fuck that guy.
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