Yesterday someone quipped on Twitter something to the effect that it was hard to believe Roman Polanski had fallen for the old Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zurich Film Festival trick. As you're likely aware, not all the news and commentary that has tumbled, tweeted and generally spewed forth online since the 76-year-old director was arrested on Saturday has been quite that light-hearted.
Over the weekend, it was difficult to piece together just what had happened exactly, but now that Monday's come and the news organizations have kicked into full gear, the story is developing rapidly - and basically on two fronts. The bare bones have been neatly laid out in a FAQ by the Guardian's Helen Pidd. In short, over three decades ago, Polanski, charged with having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, left the US before he was sentenced and, while US authorities had issued an international search request in 2005, the Los Angeles county district attorney's office decided to make its move now. So Polanski's in Swiss custody and will fight extradition to the States.
Once we start trying to flesh out those bones, though - Why now? Why did Polanski flee in the first place? and so on - we begin moving into more contentious territory (not to mention mixing metaphors), and Carl Franzen has done a bang-up job mapping it for the Atlantic Wire. He divides the debate into two broad categories with subsets of varying arguments for each: "Let Him Go" vs "Lock Him Away." If you're at all interested in this case, Franzen's summary, doubling as a portal onto all the shouting, is most definitely the click of the day. I've also been gathering links to noteworthy stories and opinions, which you can pick up by following @theauteursdaily.
The cinephilic angle is not among the weightier ones, morally speaking, but that's what we're here for, so I do want to note that, as David Jolly and Michael Cieply are reporting in the New York Times, directors including Pedro Almodóvar, Wong Kar-Wai and Wim Wenders are among the nearly 100 signatories on a petition declaring, "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."
As for the critics, some, like Glenn Kenny, are wading in to the debate; others are backing away, like Kim Morgan at the Huffington Post: "I would rather discuss one of his greatest pictures, a brilliant portrait of female sadness, alienation, sexual neurosis turned to psychosis. A movie all women should watch is his masterpiece Repulsion."
At Film Studies for Free, Catherine Grant notes that "Zurich Film Festival president Debra Winger stood publicly in solidarity with Polanski: 'We stand by and wait for his release and his next masterwork,' she said. FSFF is proud to line up beside Winger and all those others who have spoken out for Polanski's release. Here, then, in honour of all of his work for the cinema, are some choice FSFF links to discussions of his first film."
That would be, of course, Knife in the Water. Watch the clips she's posted as an appetizer; then, if you're in the US or Canada, come back here to watch the film in full - and for free.