Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

July 17, 2010

The truth is out there

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 4:00 am

Roman Polanski, the acclaimed director of such films as Rosemary’s BabyChinatown and The Pianist, is the subject of a remarkably well-researched and eye-opening documentary titled Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. This film takes a look at the highly publicised court case of 1977 in which the filmmaker was tried for having “unlawful sexual intercourse” with a 13-year-old girl.

That Polanski, who was 43 at the time, was arrested and charged with raping the girl at the home of his friend Jack Nicholson while the actor was away, is a well-known fact. That he fled the United States to avoid a prison sentence and still remains in Europe in exile for that very reason, is also a fact that is commonly known. What Marina Zenovich brings to light in her documentary, however, are lesser known facts about the case which suggest that the director might have been as much a victim as he was a sinner.

Without ever going soft on what Polanski actually did, the documentary tracks down almost all the people involved in the case – the police, lawyers who represented both sides, court officials, journalists who covered the case, and even the victim herself – who all seem to agree on one thing…that while Polanski certainly deserved to face some kind of penalty, he can’t be blamed for fleeing the country because he never got a fair trial.

At the heart of this documentary is the now deceased judge of the case – Laurence J Rittenband – who it is revealed was a shameless publicity seeker who was more concerned with his own image than arriving at justice. It is learnt that Rittenband broke his word to attorneys on both sides; he staged a fake courtroom session in which the prosecution and defence lawyers were made to argue their case before him while he read out a sentence that he’d already prepared. He often discussed the case with complete outsiders, including a guy at the next urinal at his country club. Eventually Rittenband was removed fromthe case.

While Polanski himself refused to be interviewed for the documentary, Zenovich uses previous interviews he’s given, file footage of his appearances in court, newspaper clippings, even scenes from Polanski’s own films to great dramatic effect.

Tracing the director’s tragic life even before this incident – the loss of his parents in the Holocaust, the gruesome murder of his pregnant wife – this documentary paints an honest portrait of Polanski that some might even describe as sympathetic. But the truth is, it’s a fair representation of a man who has, unfortunately been defined by his one wrong deed.

Look for the film, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired on DVD; it should be watched because it’s an example of great reporting, but it’s also a very engaging film that unfolds like a drama with some thrilling moments that are all the more significant because they’re all true!

1 Comment »

  1. I agree with you on this one. Very well-researched and informative. Sometime I wish our country could also come up with such features (obviously not on the same topic,lol)

    Comment by Suman — September 23, 2012 @ 4:36 pm

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