May 17, 2010

The Polanski case: prosecution vs. persecution

Several film directors attending the Cannes film festival have signed a petition in support of their colleague Roman Polanski, currently under house arrest  in his Alpine Swiss chalet, asking the Swiss government to refuse an extradition request from California, just a few days after a California judge denied Polanski’s request to unseal testimony in the 33-year-old case (but Hollywood star Michael Douglas—in Cannes to promote Oliver Stone’s Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps—said he would not sign the petition).

The signatories include the Franco-Swiss director Jean-Luc Godard, and French directors Mathieu Amalric, Bernard Tavernier and Xavier Beauvois. What Polanski advocates think is that, also in the light of what the Franco-Polish film director himself has recently maintained, he is unjustly persecuted. “The United States continue to demand my extradition,” he said, “more to deliver me as fodder to the media of the entire world than to pronounce a judgment on which an agreement was made 33 years ago.” The essence of Polanski’s claim is that he was led to believe that his time in a state facility in Chino would constitute his full sentence, and has been frustrated for the past three decades as US authorities have maintained otherwise.

That’s why, as one who is against any form of persecution, even by judicial means, based on race, nationality, political opinion, personal beliefs, habits, cultural mores, etc., and even though I have to admit that I don’t like Roman Polanski as a person—for what he did, not for what his private views may have been or still be, and apart from my own personal beliefs, habits and cultural mores—I have felt morally obliged to wonder whether he might actually be a victim of persecution because of what he represents. But in all honesty, after reading everything I could get my hands on about the subject, I have come to the conclusion that there is no persecution, just prosecution.

And this even without considering the new allegations by British actress Charlotte Lewis, who on Friday accused Polanski of abusing her just after her 16th birthday. If anything, what is most surprising—and very similar to a persecution—are some reactions to Charlotte Lewis’s allegations. France’s culture minister Frederic Mitterrand, who admitted to paying “young boys” for sexual acts while on holiday in Thailand, referred to them as “pseudo-accusations.” Without the least doubt or hesitation. “I got into the habit of paying for boys,” he wrote in his 2005 autobiography The Bad Life, “[…] All these rituals of the market for youths, the slave market excite me enormously. One could judge this abominable spectacle from a moral standpoint but it pleases me beyond the reasonable.” It’s the world turned upside down.



  2. Great post, Rob!

    In addition to this I think everyone who has taken interest in this case should know exactly what he did, so all the lurid details are recounted by the victim here:

    Please also consider that in his autobiography, Polanski claimed that the 13-year-old girl was a willing participant. To this day the woman who was 13 at the time, although she has said she wants an end to all this and that he should not serve any jail time, categorically denies it was consensual.

  3. Great post indeed, Rob. I subscribe every single word you wrote.

    Let me just add something I’ve not seen in most of the recent accounts:

    "He allegedly was disgusted when he asked if the 13-year-old girl was on birth control, and she said no. So he stopped regular intercourse and sodomized her so that he wouldn't risk getting her pregnant. How thoughtful. What genius."

  4. Roger L. Simon:

    "I have been reading over the growing list of entertainment industry personalities who have risen to the defense of the director. The list is stomach-turning. Many of the names I know. Some were once personal friends. Some of those ex-friends even have children, who I also knew. Children.
    And yet those people are defending a man who drugged and sodomized a thirteen-year old!
    In the name of what? His art? One creepy character on the Huffington Post even went so far as to say Polanski had suffered enough because he didn’t get to work in Hollywood. How dumb can you get – multi-million dollar productions such as Polanski directed for years are financed internationally and distributed world wide. The only “suffering” Polanski had to endure in all this is he had to live in Paris instead of Beverly Hills. Quelle tragédie."

  5. 1. Having sex with a 13-year-old is rape.
    2. Having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to stop you is rape.
    3. Having sex with someone who is saying no is rape

  6. He pleaded guilty. Case closed. Nevertheless I think we should respect Ms. Geimer's wishes in the matter as well. Perhaps a reasonable approach might be to extradite and try Polanski on a felony charge for fleeing the US, while dropping the rape charge in order to avoid that Ms. Geimer has to give additional testimony and/or endure even greater publicity.

  7. @Ann

    What the present-day victim wishes is important, but it's less important than what the law requires.

  8. What the law requires is more important than the victim's wish not to pursue the case. So the law requires that a man be destroyed and the victim of the crime has no say in the matter whatsoever, and you call that 'justice'..

    If the same zeal, righteousness and inflexibility was implemented concerning the sad record of pedophilia previously covered up to preserve the reputation of the Catholic Church, the pedophile hunters out to kill Polanski for a crime more pathetic than serious, would appear less hypocritical.

    He committed the crime 33 years ago and admitted it. He served a brief sentence, but because of the particular circumstances, he knew instinctively that if he didn't leave the country he would be destroyed. Perhaps this is what those who apparently appreciate a partisan opinion would have preferred.

    To get a better idea of the case itself, this makes interesting reading. The film was based on authentic interviews, including one with Judge Rittenband.

  9. An extract from Polanski's- 'I can no longer remain silent', plus the victim's views in a Reuters' report.

    '..On February 26 last, Roger Gunson, the deputy district attorney in charge of the case in 1977, now retired, testified under oath before Judge Mary Lou Villar in the presence of David Walgren, the present deputy district attorney in charge of the case, who was at liberty to contradict and question him, that on September 16, 1977, Judge Rittenband stated to all the parties concerned that my term of imprisonment in Chino constituted the totality of the sentence I would have to serve..'

  10. @Graham

    "A crime more pathetic than serious?"

    Oh my!

  11. @Walt
    More pathetic than serious because that's what it was, it wasn't a Manson murder, and no one more than Polanski himself is now suffering from the consequences. Even the victim pardoned Polanski many years ago, and if you bothered to read what she said, her real suffering started after the crime, because of the media, and the hounds eager to get in on the kill at last. She continues to say (the second link I left earlier) that if Polanski is convicted, her suffering will start all over again. But then all you righteous, law-abiding and God-fearing citizens will acclaim that 'justice' has at last prevailed, maybe justifiably so regarding the criminal, but perhaps even more unjustifiably so regarding the victim. Call it what you like, but under such circumstances it can hardly be qualified as "justice".

  12. An interesting interview originally published by Le Parisien with Bernard-Henri Lévy regarding the Polanski arrestation. It has been republished on his site- La Règle du Jeu, for those who can read French. I fully agree with the points he makes, and all more so considering the request of the victim.