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.