Sunday, September 27, 2009

Polanski's Arrest

Have you heard about Roman Polanski's arrest in Switzerland? The news confused me as I tend to view Switzerland (generically / ignorantly) as a place of wealthy neutrality. I also tend to view the auteur's ongoing US legal problems through three lenses:
  • art (we need him making movies, please)
  • the documentary Wanted and Desired (so eye-opening about his circus-like trial)
  • that interview with his grown victim Samantha Geimer around the time of The Pianist's release (she didn't seem to be harboring much -- any actually -- in the way of vengeful 'lock-him-up' sentiment).
Such a touchy subject.

The following tweets -- some from film blogger types like final girl and lucas mcnelly -- are neat summary illustrations of how quickly/differently people respond to anything Polanski, The Art/The Man related.

How are you feeling out there?

[Semi tangent: I'll admit I'm feeling exactly like Lucas... manly because this week I became obsessed with the idea that there's only a couple of handfuls of directors left who seem to understand how to use a freaking camera (slighly OT: Nathaniel has been very angry lately at the tyranny of closeups and ping pong over-the-shoulder filming of all dialogue scenes even from supposed "masters". There are many ways to position a camera. It doesn't have to be a close-up every time an actor has a line of dialogue! Sometimes you need to see the room, sometimes the actor who's being spoken too, sometimes where the actors are standing in relation to each other, etcetera. Switch it up, people. For god's cinema's sake.]


Amir said...

i was very upset to hear the news on his arrest as well.

let the man go,
for cinema's sake!

Michael B. said...

I'm stuck in the middle on this.

I know he did something wrong and that he should be punished for what he did but I also feel since the victim has asked for the case to be tossed it should be.

Also the LAPD kinda pisses me off. Just because they'll spend time figuring out where and what Polanski is doing rather than looking at LA itself and seeing how many other problems there are right now.

pomme said...

sex with a 13 years old teenager girl,it's illegal and bad!

Glendon said...

I separate the man from his art. On one side that means I can enjoy his films without once thinking about his real life situation. That also means I don't think he deserves special treatment under the law if he commits a crime.

Anonymous said...

he had sex with a 13 yr old. Just because he's talented doesn't excuse him from punishment. he deserves it.

Joseph said...

But wasn't his trial a complete fraudulent bullshit trial?

Plus he faces charges for unlawful sexual conduct, not for rape. It IS a difference.

Dr. Stan Glick said...

There's no statute of limitations when you've been convicted and fled the country. Regardless of how flawed the trial was/may have been, there ain't no doubt that he had sex with a very under aged girl, which is a criminal act and pretty much disgusting. The passing of many years doesn't change any of that. Maybe the best thing at this point, assuming he's brought back to the States, is make a deal where the original conviction is set aside, he cops to the crime, and does community service appropriate to his skills as a director and the crime he committed.

NoNo said...

I don't feel sorry for him either. Plenty of people are in jail that have had tough lives and plenty of people are in jail for fraudulent trials. Should I feel different just because he makes good movies? If this was some regular guy in the street no one would give a damn. That's what sets Polanski apart from the millions of people that are incarcerated everyday and don't have the opportunity to have a major documentary of their trial and flee the country for 32 years.

jessica said...

"...he faces charges for unlawful sexual conduct, not for rape. It IS a difference..."

Have you ever read the testimony of the girl? She describes what happened in a lot of detail and, though of course one could choose to doubt her honesty, I think it's pretty clear that it was rape. She was actually crying and saying no but was too drugged out and frightened to do much to stop it.

Whatever he was technically *charged* with, if her account is true, he raped her.

Deborah said...

Wanted and Desired is extremely biased. You should really look up the vast amount of point-counterpoint on it before taking it seriously.

Polanski's victim didn't recant, she is just moving on with her life. Like many rape victims, she probably got good therapy and found peace after her trauma. None of that has any impact on felony rape. Rapists should go to jail. Period.

adelutza said...

I'm not defending him and maybe if he faced the charges when they happened he would've been over this a long time ago ... but but ... aren't there way worse criminals on this world that the LAPD should be concerned with instead of staging this? Why now? I'm sure there's something going on more then reaches the eye.

Jay from Vancouver said...

Well there's rape and there's statutory rape. Whatever it is, it's bad enough. If he didn't do it, why did he run away?

As somebody mentioned here, there's a man and there's his art. These two categories shouldn't be mixed together. If this was my daughter in question - I wouldn't think twice about it.


Anonymous said...

What I find shocking, apart from the news themselves, is that people are blaming the Swiss authorities. It seems to me so lame and populist (and I'm not referring to this site) to kill the messenger, or the warrant executants in this case.

I don't know the details of the case, but if someone is to blame is:
- A. The American justice system if there were irregularities in the case proceedings.
- B. Polanski's lawyers who should have been able to get him free of the warrant long time ago.

I read somewhere else that as Polanski's presence had been publicly announced, the warrant had been reissued (?). So, what were the authorities supposed to do? Just ignore it?

If that's the case, somewhere someone just had some special interest in getting Polanski arrested and I don't think it was an unknown Swiss customs officer.

Anyway, I hope he can continue making movies.


(sorry, the name/url option isn't available for me right now)

Chris Na Taraja said...

he broke the law, he has to pay...I like forcing him to make the sequel to Rosemary's Baby...Rosemary's Grandbaby!

Anonymous said...

The girl was 13 at the time. Under the law she was incapable of giving consent. Whatever he pled to is immaterial. If he had been a regular skeevy child rapist, he'd be doing 20 years sharing a cell with Bubba.

Jim T said...

Make him pay 100 dollars and let him go.

Amir said...

i definitely agree with adelutza.
there are so many more criminals with much bigger crimes on their records that are roaming free.
why go after this guy, one of the greatest filmmakers, who did something THIRTY TWO years ago?

Tallsonofagun said...

For me, it´s such a difficult thing to seperate artist´s actions from their art. I am skeeved out by Polanski, Woody Allen and Michael Jackson as people.

However, I truly appreciate their art and sometimes find myself fighting myself over the guilt of enjoying beautiful things they´ve created when I know they´ve done horrible things in real life.

I guess that I´m always going to allow myself to enjoy their art when I know that It´s bigger than them as temporary living people and that their art is much more important than they are as very flawed human beings.

Having said that, Polanski committed a real crime and deserves the same punishment I would expect be given to any average Joe down the street. And his cowardly run from facing what he admits he did doesn´t make it any easier to support him.

Arkaan said...

I'm irritated.

Genius is not an extenuating circumstance.

Fact: He admitted to having sex with a minor.

Fact: When it became clear that the judge was acting inappropriately (this is according to virtually everyone involved, including the prosecutor), he fled the country. As France as an extradition agreement not requiring them to extradite one of their own citizens, he has remained safe in France.

Inference: The fact that he is such a famous auteur is the reason he isn't serving out a just punishment at this time. The reason he's been able to make those films people admire is because justice wasn't served.

Thought: The fact that there are worse criminals isn't relevant. That's like arguing that we shouldn't persecute white collar crimes because gang violence kills more people.

Roman Polanski was charged with sex with a minor, which he pled guilty to. Given her testimony, I think there's no doubt that it was rape on top of that. Does the fact that he can move a camera really mean he shouldn't serve time? Really?

gabrieloak said...

It's very likely that if Polanski finally comes back to the US the charges will be dismissed since even the victim who is now grown up wants this story to go away.

Ryan Ray said...

If I were him, I would have done this years ago, since the victim wants it to just go away too. I wouldn't want it hanging over my head. Plus, I would be able to travel to the Oscars.

Unknown said...

What always disturbs me is that you can get away with more if you're famous or powerful, and almost every powerful person or entity in the world is complicit in keeping that status quo. That said, in Polanski's case, the damage was done a long time ago, and there's nothing anyone can do to rectify it now.

The LAPD apparently will never back down on this. France and Poland are instead appealing to US directly. How crazy would it be if this caused Obama to pardon Polanski, and he could then come back and make another American film.

adelutza said...

I thought one of the purposes of punishment is rehabilitation, isn't it?
How many other children has he "raped" since? Do we want to punish him just to pat ourselves on the back and say that we treat everybody the same? Really? How many bigger fish go unpunished and we don't even know about their crimes? But because he's a famous artist we're all suddenly very righteous. Oh well.

jessica said...

"Given her testimony, I think there's no doubt that it was rape on top of that."

Thank you. Many people - directly or by implication - dismiss what he allegedly did as not that bad because it's only statutory rape.

The problem with that is, no matter what one thinks about someone older than 18 having sex with someone younger than 18, if this girl's testimony was true, then the sex between them wasn't even consensual.

The best you could say for him was that he didn't violently rape her, but instead manipulated her into being feeling so helpless that she was afraid to fight him off.

But she was crying, said many times that she wanted to go home, and told him 'no, stop' when he began to do things to her.

I know this was a long time ago and that the victim wants to move on, but I don't like seeing this dismissed as a small crime.

Maybe her testimony was false, as some people believe. Maybe her mother put her up to it. But the account that this girl gives is an account of rape, not "rape".

Deborah said...

the reason this is important is because even today, even in this very thread, people are dismissing rape as less important than filmmaking. Treating it as minor. Suggesting it's worthy of $100 fine.

If we let stars and artists get away with crimes because they are stars and artists, we are saying that their victims are less important than they are. Is that really okay?

Prosecuting crimes isn't always just about individual crimes and criminals, but about sending social messages. Isn't it worthwhile to send a message that it's NOT OKAY to rape someone and EVEN FAMOUS PEOPLE have to obey that little law? Isn't that important to us as a society?

And if not, why not?

Bing147 said...

He likely won't serve any time. For one, his charge doesn't neccesitate it. Two, the judge in charge all but said he was willing to drop the charges a few months ago when Polanski was publically trying to get it done but said he wouldn't make any decisions until after Polanski came back and appeared in court and he wasn't willing to take that risk. And finally, his first trial was so insanely screwed up by the judge that he could quite likely countersue the state of California if he wanted and win. They'll agree to a harsh fine and probably some sort of community service and a few years of probation.

At most, he'd end up finishing out the original term, so about 2 months. They could go after him for more for fleeing... but then they further open themselves up to attack for his original trial and it would get VERY messy, moreso for the state than for him.


deborah... i absolutely agree that there is a double standard and that's troublesome but it's not just artists. I mean anyone that holds lofty status of any sort (or is very rich) can often get away with murder. Consider what Bush and Cheney and all of them were up to this past decade with torture. if anyone is ever punished for the crimes it'll only be low level people who carried it out. not the people who ordered it.

same way with wars. the foot soldiers die. the people who started the wars -- often for profit reasons -- usually don't have to suffer too much.

and to go EVEN FURTHER OFF TOPIC: I've always been troubled by what i often see as gleefully punitive mob mentality in any trials or criminal cases that are very public.

basically i think people, by and large, are very judgemental (especially in groups) and i think the world would be much better off if there was a lot more live and let live and "let's move on" from all quarters... especially when it came to things that happened a long time ago. I'm not saying that "statue of limitations" should apply in all situations but there's an awful lot of pain and hate and crime and retributional "justice" in the world that's basically all about our inability to move on.

i've lost my train of thought. uh... don't mind me just thinking aloud.

anyway... i was just throwing it out for discussion. very interesting to read all these perspectives.

and honestly -- back to the other subject -- i AM upset at how lazy most filmmakers are! ;)

Arkaan said...

Again, it's unlikely he'll serve a sentence. Which doesn't bug me given how Geimer's handled this situation these days.

adelutza, you have completely missed the point. Yes, part of the point of punishment is rehabiliation. And you may argue that he hasn't raped anyone since (which, I can't believe you're placing in quotes). Of course, there were immediate rumours on the set of TESS that he took up with an underage (or was it simple teenage, I don't know) star. But it's also retribution. It's also about separation. And yes, finally, it's about justice. I simply cannot believe that this is an argument I'm having here.

Are there worse criminals and crimes? YES

Do people get away with things they shouldn't as a result of status or wealth? YES

I won't deny that part of me just wants this to disappear because, clearly, Geimer's moved on with her life and for her, there's no point in hashing this out. But part of me gets really irritated at how people try to diminish his actions because he's a star, or because he's not Bush or Hitler. As if those are the standards we should hold a legal system to.


Nathaniel, I agree with what you're saying but don't see the specific relevance here.

Ryan Ray said...

Arkaan, are you talking about Nastassja Kinski in Tess? I've heard this too, but obviously no charges were filed. I guess she was 15, and it was (maybe still is?) the legal age in France, where it was filmed.

Wayne B said...

I think this is the most thought-provoking post I've ever seen on the Film Experience. It's a really complex issues with a lot of sides to it. IMO what he did 32 years ago was wrong, taking away a girl's innocence like that. I don't have too much sympathy for the man, even though he's a genius artist. This whole awful affair wouldn't have happened if he had NOT taken advantage of this girl. Because of his actions it led to a questionable trial that caused more suffering for her and never led to any sense of justice. But it was over three decades ago and you have to wonder WHY NOW? Why not thirty years ago?

I see what Deborah's saying and agree with her on her points about letting the rich/famous get away with crime and the message that sends out to victims. But I think in this particular case, the victim's wants must be heard and recognized. If she doesn't want anything more to be done then maybe that should be respected. Instead of jailtime why not a multi-million dollar donation to an organization like RAINN without any sort of tax benefit?

Wayne B said...

On the post's other note I watched Lifeboat weeks ago and the way Hitchcock framed the entire movie was genius. The part where Canada Lee recites a prayer has never left my mind. I feel too young to say this but "they don't make 'em like they used to."

Unknown said...

I am angry about the news. This is 30 years ago! Let the man go.
I still think people are biased toward Roman Polanski. Remember how people hate him when Rosemary's Baby first came out? The man suffered enough for losing his ex-wife and unborn children in the Manson murders. And come on, at that time nobody speaks for him.
I think the most important question is: OK so the crime is convicted, then what? and so what?
Finally another desperado put in jail? Or maybe call it off and enjoy one of the last great masters' work on earth, before it's too late. I think we lost enough great people already. For the past few years.
People are so judgemental, we see a man do wrong and we suck his blood dry. Happy about the late justice for 5 seconds and then turn off the computer screen. But for him this is the real life.

[sorry about the anger, and I'm from Taiwan.]

Urey said...

I know that his first trial was corrupt and all, Polanski's led an utterly tragic life and is a genius auteur, but he also sodomized a thirteen-year-old girl. That's real and vile and needs to be accounted for. That goes beyond the victim saying, "I'm over it now." I'd agree that there's no moral statute of limitations on child rape. I think he needs to settle things up. He probably won't get jail time if he does, just some slap on the wrist and probation. The media circus will be huge and a spectacle, but that's to be expected. I do wonder the "why now?" part of this though, unless this has been in the works for some time. But I'm not broken up about his arrest at all due to his age. It's time to settle this thing once and for all.

Michael said...

I seriously doubt that he will be extradited. This whole thing stinks. He has been living and working in Switzerland for years and now suddenly he gets arrested. Switzerland doesn't need a huge political crisis with France and they will most certainly have one if they extradite a french citizen to the US.

I'm 99% sure that it wont happen.

Rebecca said...

I really don't agree with the sentiment that it should be glossed over because it was 30 years ago. 'Why now?' Because he fled from justice and has never been held responsible for what he did. If he hadn't left the country, he probably could have already served his sentence and been free, but he is living with the consequences of his own actions now because he refused to deal with it 30 years ago.

As for the idea that we should call it off to enjoy a 'master's works,' I totally disagree, if he is not able to work and make movies it is the direct result of his own actions. If you want to complain that he's not able to make movies, you should be complaining to Polanski himself for making it that way.

poz pig said...

There is another angle to this as well. Much of the opinions being expressed in this thread are a perfect encapsulation of why rape convictions are so increidbly difficult and why the experience of women and men who report rape can be so traumatic. There is something disingenuous in people claiming that they think what Polanski did was horrible in one breath and then dismissing it because it was long ago. Many of the writers here are twisting themselves into pretzels to try and excuse Polanski's act just so he has the opportunity to make another film. Frankly, that's outrageous.

It should be pointed out once more that this whole situation has occurred because Polansku made the decision to rape a 13 year old girl. He had the money and connections to then skip out on the proper legal process. He had the clout to lead a very comfortable life and continue to develop as a filmmaker. It is Polanski alone who is responsible for this and those making excuses need to decide if talent is really enough to allow somebody flout the law to such a degree.

It is also important for those who struggle to report sexual assault that high-profile rapists are not allowed to escape. If Polanski had issues with his trial then he could have addressed this decades ago. As much as I admire his films, I can't respect him as a person and feel little sympathy for a situation which is almost entirely of his own design.

Andrew K. said...

I think it's CRAP. And here's why...I dabbled in Law in high school and the rules talk about unjust punishment. If you put a man on death row you have to kill within such and such time or else it's deemed as inhumane and that man cam appeal and end up serving a life sentence. I don't know it it applies in the US...but it's just a general humanitarian rule. Polanski has been on the run for what, thirty years now? And now they lock him up.

It's a case of shit or get of the they seemed to have gotten off the pot a loooooooong time ago. Why now? It seems ridiculous, a miscarriage of justice and just plain. The issue now isn't whether or not what he did was wrong the issue now is that it's been tooooooooo long.

Oh well, that just my ten cents.

jess said...

Do Swiss waterboard ?

Bob Westal said...

One point I want to make is that, while I find Samantha Geimer a credible person, just because her testimony at the time definitely makes the case sound like a forcible rape does not prove that that's exactly what it was -- it only indicates that that's how she remembered it. Or am I the only film geek here who's actually seen "Rashomon"?

As I recall, there was no corroborating evidence that she was forcibly raped, which is why the DA didn't charge Polanski with that more serious charge. While there's no denying that what he did was reprehensible, and he gets no "I'm a great artist" get out jail free card, calling him a rapist in the usual sense or even saying, as some have that he "drugged" her (giving someone drugs is not the same thing as "drugging" them) is misleading.

I'm getting really tired of people acting as if they know something that no one will ever know for sure.


Bob -- this is what i'm talking about.

we are very quick to judge and part of the problem with being quick to judge is that we also, as a society, tend to be in love with punishment.

I'm not sure what would ever satisfy people as far as punishment for Polanski goes. You know if he did more jail time when he got out people would still say it was not enough. and if he were up for another Oscar you'd still here all the cries "you would give an Oscar to a rapist!"

Polanski's life has been so full of suffering that it's just depressing however it goes honestly.

Alex Constantin said...

"We did photos with me drinking champagne," Geimer says. "Toward the end it got a little scary, and I realized he had other intentions and I knew I was not where I should be. I just didn't quite know how to get myself out of there." She recalled in a 2003 interview that she began to feel uncomfortable after he asked her to lie down on a bed, and how she attempted to resist. "I said, 'No, no. I don't want to go in there. No, I don't want to do this. No!', and then I didn't know what else to do," she stated, adding: "We were alone and I didn’t know what else would happen if I made a scene. So I was just scared, and after giving some resistance, I figured well, I guess I’ll get to come home after this".[34]

Geimer testified that Polanski gave her a combination of champagne and quaaludes[35], a sedative drug, and "despite her protests, he performed oral sex, intercourse and sodomy on her"[36][37][38], each time after being told 'no' and being asked to stop.

Rape. child abuse. JAIL!

Timothy said...

Justice needs to be served. It's bad enough that he's a pedophile and rapist, but he fled the country barring a legitimate sentence. That's a felony. He needs to settle accounts, and I'm glad that this is finally coming to fruition now.

Lily said...

"I separate the man from his art. On one side that means I can enjoy his films without once thinking about his real life situation. That also means I don't think he deserves special treatment under the law if he commits a crime."

This is how I feel as well.

The Pretentious Know it All said...
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The Pretentious Know it All said...
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The Pretentious Know it All said...

I'm torn too, but ultimately this is where I land every time. I will say that Roman Polanski is kind of careless and should have been more aware of the places that he should and should not go. If Switzerland has an extradition agreement with the US, then stay your ass out of Switzerland.

I also think that there are other figures at play here. First of all, the girl claims she was uncomfortable and told this to her MOTHER who still allowed her daughter to go to the second photo shoot. Plus, this all happened at Jack Nicholson's house, who mysteriously "wasn't there" and had "no idea what was going on?" Yeah...right.

As an aside: I am obviously against sex crimes, against children or anyone else. The problem is that most pedophilia laws in place do very little to protect children. They seem very fixated on punishing the criminals the criminals after the fact. The problem is twofold--a culture that both demands vengeance and blood retribution at the drop of a hat and our skittish, medieval attitude towards discussing sexuality openly and honestly. Sexual assault is more likely to happen with someone you know and are close to in some way. Yet we rear children (especially female children) to be ashamed of their bodies and sexuality. It's no wonder kids feel like they can't come forward and admit that this is happening to them.

steve said...

i'm more irritated by that ridiculous letter co-signed by the Hollywood "in-crowd" than anything else

if the same thing happened to someone without fame or the means to flee the country, what would have happened to him?

it seems like a case of the privileged few protecting the privileged

the rules for the haves & the have-nots in the world cannot be mutually exclusive, though most often they are