Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another

thescroll_header

Whither Polanski

With silence from Switzerland, everyone else debates director’s arrest

Print Email
Polanski at the Marrakesh Film Festival last year.(Abdelhak Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

If Roman Polanski were making a movie about his own extraordinary life—beginning with his childhood escape from the Krakow ghetto during the Holocaust, tracing his catapult into Hollywood fame with Rosemary’s Baby, moving on to his pregnant wife Sharon Tate’s murder by the Manson Family, following his guilty plea to charges of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in a drug-fueled episode at Jack Nicholson’s house, and then documenting his subsequent decades as a highly visible, Oscar-winning fugitive from a possible California prison sentence—he couldn’t have found a more melodramatic way to open the denouement than what happened this weekend, when L.A. prosecutors arranged his arrest in Switzerland on the eve of Yom Kippur.

As it happens, Polanski, who has been in a Zurich jail since Saturday, is just about the only person who hasn’t been heard from on the subject of how much, or how little, he has left to atone for, at this late date. On one side are those who insist that Polanski committed a heinous crime and must be held accountable to the law. One conservative blogger, Jim Lindgren, dug up an essay on Salvador Dali’s personal trespasses by George Orwell, who, as it happens, cited the hypothetical rape of little girls in railway carriages by William Shakespeare. “We should not tell him to go ahead with it on the ground that he might write another King Lear,” Orwell wrote, in 1944. Or, as Nick Gillespie asked on Reason’s blog, “Would these same people be backing Polanski if he were a Catholic priest?”

That line of argument seems to miss the point of the arrest, which isn’t about the crime itself—Polanski did, after all, plead guilty—but about the responsibility to serve prison time, whether or not it’s what your lawyers negotiated for you. On that point, Hollywood and European heavyweights like Harvey Weinstein and Thierry Fremaux, director of the Cannes film festival, have been quick to argue that Polanski has had quite a hard enough life already; that his victim, Samantha Geimer, has publicly forgiven him and asked that the case be dropped; and, moreover, that he already served the time stipulated in his plea agreement, which, according to an HBO documentary released last year, was subsequently violated by the supervising judge.

“How do you go from the Holocaust to the Manson family with any sort of dignity? In those circumstances, most people could not contribute to art and make the kind of beautiful movies he continues to make,” Weinstein writes in today’s Independent. Others, like the Los Angeles Times’s Patrick Goldstein, who compares the prosecutors who set the arrest in motion to Victor Hugo’s relentless Javert, added that prosecutors in his bankrupt state, which is instituting court furloughs to save money, surely have better things to do than persecute a famous movie director for a crime that, sadly, isn’t that exceptional.

Meanwhile, Newser’s Michael Wolff casts aspersions on the motives of the prosecutors (publicity) and the Swiss (quid pro quo, in connection with ongoing cases relating to UBS’ involvement abetting of tax evasion). “Arresting Polanski is about the L.A. prosecutor’s office’s public relations,” Wolff wrote.

Of course, Polanski already knows how that part of the movie goes. We’ll see whether L.A. really is still Chinatown.

Polanski Seeks Release from Swiss Jail [NYT]
Polanski Appeals Extradition [LAT]

Print Email

COMMENTING CHARGES
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at letters@tabletmag.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.

2000

Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Whither Polanski

With silence from Switzerland, everyone else debates director’s arrest

More on Tablet:

Obama: Denying Israel’s Right to Exist as a Jewish Homeland is Anti-Semitic

By Yair Rosenberg — The president draws a line in the sand in his latest interview