Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Fall of Roman: Art Attack

Someone mentioned this yesterday afternoon, but I was so busy ridiculing Bernard-Henri Lévy and Europe's Olympic Intelligentsia Team that I didn't feel like diluting the pool with anyone else.

As it turns out, though, there is actually a larger petition circulating in support of Roman Polanski -- and almost unbelievably, it's even more arrogant in its tone that Lévy's.

It reads as follows:

"We have learned the astonishing news of Roman Polanski's arrest by the Swiss police on September 26th, upon arrival in Zurich (Switzerland) while on his way to a film festival where he was due to receive an award for his career in filmmaking.

His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals.

Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.

By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one can know the effects.

Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.

Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians - everyone involved in international filmmaking - want him to know that he has their support and friendship.

On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries.

If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski."

My favorite line: "A case of morals."

Because drugging and sodomizing a 13-year-old girl amounts to a trifling little disagreement over one person or country's morality versus another's.

Oh, and of course the final threatening coup de grace: "We demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski."

I love that. Yes, otherwise we'll immediately impose sanctions and cut off the United States' supply of critically acclaimed films that twelve people outside of the film festival circuit actually see. Do what we say or we will bring East Village coffee house conversation to its knees!

Look, I realize I'm being harsh here, but the truth is that I'm a huge movie geek -- appreciating everything from the tiniest independent film to the biggest-budget blockbuster. This is probably why it disappoints me in ways I could never properly put into words that so many of my favorite filmmakers have jumped on board and signed this laughable petition.

A partial list:

"Woody Allen, Darren Aronofsky, Sam Mendes, Alfonso Cuaron, Terry Gilliam, Jonathan Demme, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch, Tom Tykwer, Martin Scorsese, Alexander Payne, Michael Mann, Julian Schnabel, John Landis, Wim Wenders"

Now I get that some of these were givens: Woody Allen has no choice but to forgive sex with a little girl, Julian Schnabel is clinically insane, and John Landis is thinking, "Polanski's an amateur -- at least the kid survived her encounter with him."

Also on the list, inexplicably, is Buck Henry.

That bears repeating because it's so damn weird: Buck Henry.

The bottom line here -- the only possible rationale I can come up with as to why a large group of otherwise lucid human beings with working hearts and brains are on board with this travesty -- would seem to be best related by way of a little story: Back in 1999, you might remember, Shakespeare In Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. To this day, this is a decision that makes zero sense and it actually has gone on to become one of the most controversial (and regrettable) choices the academy's ever made. After the Oscar was announced, I remember a few academy members and various Hollywood heavies speaking out about the decision, saying with a completely straight face that they got behind Shakespeare because they saw it as a love letter to actors. (Those were William H. Macy's words exactly, in fact.)

So if you follow that logic, it goes something like this: Honoring actors is a more noble and important statement to make than honoring the guys who helped save the world.

I realize that I'm simplifying things quite a bit, but the point I'm trying to make is that the arguments so many level at the artistic elite -- that they live in a fantasy universe revolving solely around them, that they've been told "yes" for so long that they believe the rules no longer apply to them -- these have a certain amount of validity. Is there a better explanation as to why so many intelligent people would come together with one voice and proclaim loudly that one of their own is above the law?

I really hope that's it, because if not I'm going to have no choice but to assume that the people behind my favorite movies are all crazy, despicable fucking monsters.


Kristyne said...


Chez, this is amazing. Someone needed to pick apart this petition, and I'm quite glad it was you.

(One can only hope, for pure selfish entertainment value, that M. Night Shamawanga speaks out in defense of Polanski. Only then will your invective have the opportunity to come full circle!)

Stephen said...

I wish Sam Peckinpah were still alive.

Jennifer said...

"Do what we say or we will bring East Village coffee house conversation to its knees!"

Thank you Chez. You have no idea how much I needed that!!!

Much appreciation -

Web Dunce

VOTAR said...

Whoopie Goldberg told me it's not rape. So I don't know about you, but I don't need any more convincing. Because, you know, Whoopie says so.

Kristyne said...

I just took the challenge and read what I could...because all of these important defenders want me to believe something is fishy.

Not only did I read the incredibly sickening grand jury testimony of the victim...every word..but I read the entire transcript of Polanski's plea hearing.

The documentary defending him is bullshit. The defenders are spouting bullshit. Once you read the hearing transcript, Polanski's case for running completely evaporates. He knew the psych evaluation was not his sentence. He acknowledge the sentence was up to the judge and he could do up to fifteen years.

Both documents are up at TSG. They pretty much answer every objection.

pxilated said...

Is there a petition somewhere I can sign that demands these "Free Polanski" people get smacked in the face?

Hex said...

This whole thing is just ridiculous. Polanski needs to man up and just face the music.

But all this angry outcry from friends/famous people makes me worry that Whoopi Goldberg (and others) may also subscribe to other such hyphenated philosophy nonsense, like racism-racism, or murder-murder.

Cheryl Robbins said...

Elizabeth should've won in 1999, though I wasn't disappointed in Shakespeare In Love one bit. I love that movie (maybe it's my gender). Saving Private Ryan was a good movie, but it did not deserve to win because the men they were portraying deserved recognition. The quality of a work of art needs to be separated somewhat from its subject matter so it can be weighed on its artistic value. In a similar fashion, the deeds of a man need separation from the man. Case in point: There are folks who are still pissed about Clinton's infidelity, and use it as an excuse to discount his great work as a national leader. Ben Franklin kept slaves. Behind every banner of greatness mankind has ever bestowed upon an individual exists a real person with real flaws and monumental fuck-ups. Though Mel Gibson might be a bat-shit crazy drunk driving antisemite, it will not make me appreciate Braveheart any less. Sean Connery and Bill Murray beat their wives, yet I don't see anyone boycotting Ghostbusters or Last Crusade. Countless great people throughout the course of history have done terrible things. Still, we can celebrate the creations, the works, the deeds, and when necessary, we must condemn the men behind them. (cont.)

Cheryl Robbins said...

This is not an attempt to excuse Roman Polanski. He deserves to be punished to the full extent of the law, and that punnishment is long overdue. He was left free for far too long. Those who appreciate his works should continue to do so, as they should also mourn the actions of the man behind them as the things that destroyed the artist.

The trial of Roman Polanski needs to ignore his artistic accomplishments. We do not have a life-long scale weighing good vs. bad. We must measure these things independently of one another if justice is ever to be served. Artistry, popularity, or greatness do not and should not amount to a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card to Roman Polanski or anyone else (*cough* Bush *cough* war crimes *cough*).

Chez said...

Well thought out as always, Cheryl.

But come on -- Elizabeth? A painfully average movie bolstered by a really good lead performance?

Not a chance.

As for Saving Private Ryan, it was a better film than Shakespeare in every possible way. I'm one of those people who believes that while a movie shouldn't necessarily be honored simply because of its popularity, a film's lasting impact should be taken into account -- particularly if all other considerations are close to equal. In other words, there was no way in hell you couldn't look at Ryan, even back in 1999, and say to yourself, "This one matters. It'll be watched and talked about for years to come," as opposed to Shakespeare which was largely forgotten a week after the awards were over. Add to that this little undeniable fact: The Weinsteins, as usual, bought their Oscar that year.

And besides, my comparison of the two movies in this piece was largely based on why some in the academy claim to have been so enamored with Shakespeare: because it honored that noblest of callings -- ACTING!

Charly Gordon said...

It may be far too much to hope for, but I wonder if this episode might lead to some kind of tipping point after which the majority of people in our society finally dispenses with the worship of famous people and sees them for what they are: a bunch of narcissistic shit-heels.

But then I think back on the deification of Michael Jackson, and I come crashing back to reality.

Cheryl Robbins said...

LOL! Now now, Elizabeth had a lot of great qualities beyond Kate Blanchet. It was visually stunning, and you know I'm a visual gal. It does unfortunately force the viewer to forget any knowledge of history. We have the imprisonment of Dudley when he was favorably by her side until he died many many years later. Then, there's her surprise that he was already married, even though in reality she grew up with him, knew his wife, and was present at their wedding. Then, there's the choice of an old man to play William when the real man was barely thirty at the time and was never forced into retirement.

I was 17 when those movies came out, so my emotional tie to them was obviously born in that mindset, the same reason I still love Dragonheart, despite it probably looking terrible to those who first experienced it in adulthood.

People will automatically be drawn to creations which are relevant to them personally. It's impossible for a person to be completely impartial, thus all the arguing whenever a choice for Supreme Court Justice needs to be made. Impartiality does not exist. I would call the choice of Shakespeare more a side effect of this than a declaration of acting to be the noblest of callings, just like the story of a young woman gaining her strength and power would have extra relevancy to and impact upon a 17-year-old girl. Art is subjective, and the choice of Shakespeare is just an unlucky side effect by its subject matter flirting with the judges.

Cheryl Robbins said...

And by the way -- thanks for consistently putting my brain to work.

Julie The Vintage Goddess said...

I'm just glad Kevin Smith twittered "Please don't be one of those FREE POLANSKI people" Look, I dig ROSEMARY'S BABY; but rape's rape. Do the crime, do the time."

At least someone in Hollywood has a bit of sense.
I think Smith needs to begin a "Film Makers who think rape is a bad thing" petition.

The Manimal said...

I don't know why Polanski's so dead set against going to prison; I'm sure he'll find plenty of folks there who are just as into anal rape as he is, if not more.

Ref said...

"Cate Blanchett."

Disgusted by Buck Henry. I've always read that pervading cynicism is the source of his comic genius. Does he really think "art" is an excuse for criminality? Then again, I keep thinking of the "littler things, dirtier things!" sketch.

Vermillion said...

Um, I know it is kinda late to add this part (been incommunicado for a while), but it seems to me the only people who keep bringing the victim and her desire to be left alone into this are the Polanski defenders. Everyone else seems more than happy to let her live her life away from the case, but his defenders seem to relish the chance to drag her and her statements back into the spotlight to get their man off. It is like bringing up a victim's sexual history in such a case; it has no bearing that the crime was committed or the prosecution of said crime.

Also, and this is the part that get me personally, HE RAN. OJ didn't run, R Kelly didn't run, Spector didn't run. HE DID. So in my eyes at least, he deserves just as much if not more scorn than they did. Instead of trying to appeal the judge's decision (which any half-decent lawyer could have done), or any of the myriad of things he could have done to end this farce, HE MOTHERFUCKING RAN AWAY.

If he was truly repentant, if he truly felt for the woman he violated, if he truly felt he was being persecuted unfairly, WHY DID HE RUN?