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Topics/Questions/Exercises Of The Week—2 October 2009

Let's All Move To Shreveport (Dedicated To Vadim Rizov): "A Shreveport Hilton staffer says their wifi is fast and steady, and if it isn't they also offer ethernet cable connections in the room plus an in-house Starbucks with wifi of its own. So I can't lose."—who else but Jeffrey Wells?

Armond White-ism Of The Week: "Any critic’s suggestion that a film as lovingly, emotionally precise as A Serious Man typifies Jewish self-hatred is ridiculous." Mr. White's review of the new Coen brothers' picture is a near-poignant reminder of what once made the critic worth taking seriously. If he keeps this up, this feature may have to be suspended.

So What About Roman Polanski?: Whoa. Do you really want me to go there?  It's kind of what you'd call a loaded topic. So lemme lay some stuff out for ya, just so we all know where we're coming from. Man.

Yes, I think Roman Polanski did a terrible thing. Committed a very serious crime. The whole scenario seriously creeped me out even back in the 70s, when sexual mores were so different, apparently. But also, even then, I thought, well, I like the guy's films, and sure enough he's had it pretty tough in his life, but hell, it's a matter for the courts. I was what you'd call disinterested. And when he skipped out, I thought, "Well, look at that." Disinterested again. I've never felt compelled to stand up and shout, "Bring Roman Polanski to justice!" Or, for that matter, "Exonerate Roman Polanski!" I thought the recent doc on his case brought some very interesting data to light, but that it was also a trifle too infatuated with its subject for its own good. But now I realize that my failure to want Polanski's head on a plate makes me a bad person. Helas.

No, I wouldn't sign either petition supporting Polanski's release myself, but I guess of the two, the one that mentions the extraterritorial nature of film festivals makes the most "sense." But it doesn't hold a whole lot of (actually, make that any) legal water, either. (And for heaven's sake, so many of Polanski's defenders have utterly failed to cover themselves in glory, revealing attitudes toward rape that are positively neanderthal.) Whatever you think of the timing and the circumstances of the arrest (and I consider them both suspect, as does Polanski collaborator Robert Harris, whose New York Times op-ed is worth reading, carefully), the warrant is, in a sense, it's a fair cop, as the British say (or so I gather; I only know the phrase from Monty Python sketches). And let's not forget that, through his attorneys, Polanski himself has been seeking a resolution to the situation. The L.A. judge declined to let him get it his way (that is, while outside the United States), and now it's entirely possible that he may get it another way. Illuminating reading in this respect is provided by Mark Geragos here and the somewhat more dubious Marcia Clark here. It's worth noting (one can certainly infer this from Geragos' piece) that as far as the current legal machinations are concerned, the seriousness of Polanski's initial crime does not necessarily come into a lot of play. (And then again, maybe not; Los Angeles prosecutor Cooley appears to be working up a more ambitious agenda.) This may eventually confuse various and sundry howlers, should Polanski ever see his day in court.

So. Having said that, and still being a little peeved with just how non-elevated the discourse on this topic has gotten, let me venture into some existential danger. On, then, to...

Sub-Topic: The Polanski Industry: It doesn't make any money, but it sure does stimulate the internet. Which leaves us to the question: what can be done so that it, you know, makes money? Like Jamie Lynn Spears said on an episode of Zoey 101, "I have ideas."

1) Jonathan Rosenbaum Dart Board: Over at a New York Times blog the other morning, the renowned critic Jonathan Rosenbaum posted a considered couple of paragraphs deploring the excoriation of Polanski, and was rewarded for his efforts with...a shitload of excoriation. For instance, the very first commenter, Rachel D. said, "People need to be very careful on which side they decide to stand on this issue." And why would that be? "Some of us have family members who have suffered similar trauma and we take this issue very seriously." Um, yikes. Please Rachel D., don't hurt Jonathan Rosenbaum. He's got a whole retirement ahead of him, and he just started his own website! Here, accept, with our compliments [Hey, G.K., I thought you said this was about making money...—Ed.] [Ed.: Generally, but I think here we've got to look after the greater good! Think of J.R.!—G.K.]this dartboard with Jonathan Rosenbaum's image on it, that'll help you take out your aggressions. Now we are going to back away, very, as you say, carefully...And go re-tool the assembly line for a Jeff Wells model.

2) Debating The Roman Polanski Case For Dummies: A book-length guide to the most effectively incendiary rhetoric. Learn the efficacy of phrases such as "he's been thumbing his nose at justice for 30 years" (because, after all, it's a known fact that every morning the guy got out of bed, faced West, flipped the bird toward the general vicinity of the United States' Eastern seaboard, bellowed "Come and get me, coppers," then laughed maniacally) and "Nothing mitigates Roman Polanski's unspeakable crime" (because, after all, how many times in normal discourse do you get to throw around the word "unspeakable," eh?). And how you can get even more mileage out of the phrase "raped a child" by making every word its own sentence. (See comment #131 on the above-linked Wells thread; isn't it "dramatic?") And remember, if anyone points out that you're kind of self-righteous or (I know, it's inconceivable, but it could happen) self-congratulatory, you get to turn around and tell them that they're defenders of rape, and of rapists.

3) Which Is Why I'm Actually Leery Of Making This Particular Jape: One figure who is frequently cited as a beacon of moral clarity in this—well, we can't really call it a debate now anymore, can we (I can hear the screams already: "Because there's nothing to debate, you rapist-apologist!...")?—is Salon contributor Kate Harding, whose moral clarity consists of making the identical point in varied venues. (Does her own web site count? "Most surprisingly and immediately successful blog post of my life," says she.) This suggested a product to us, and you can probably guess what it was. Something that would say the same thing, over and over again. And we would go from there. Only here's the thing. Poking any kind of fun at this kind of, well, I'm going to say zealot, has the unfortunate side effect, as implied above, of bringing other zealots out of what you might call the woodwork. People who really will accuse you of "backing a perv," of being a rapist, or a pedophile, yourself, based on nothing, just to get a rise out of you, maybe, and/or to get their own metaphorical rocks off. People who will also call you a "rape apologist piece of shit."  Accuse you of having a "rape fetish." I haven't heard of any death threats yet, but that's cold comfort; one could reasonably conclude that they're inevitable. Who needs it, really? (I also do understand that this sort of complaint will at some point solicit the response, "If you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen, you perv-backer." Just so I 've covered all the bases here.) I will not go so far as to say that all such folks are in a sense Ms. Harding's children, or actual minions, or what have you. In any event, I myself am getting out of the kitchen.  I will leave it—finally!—with the question asked by Robert Harris in the above-cited Times oped piece: cui bono?

In Other News, The Most Adorably Demented Big Hollywood Post, Ever: Two posts up from 'The WIzard of Oz': Seventy Years Later—Still Inspiring, Still Relevant (which post fails to address the grain issue) and one post down from another Steven Crowder Lonewolf Diary (you think I'm linking to that mess, yer outta yer mind), Kathryn Jean Lopez, who in an alternate universe would be the addled, pathetic, but still beatific heroine of a Bresson film (really; just look at the picture!), gets all moist and gooey over "Moon River" crooner Andy Williams, whose denunciation of Barack Obama (remember him?) as a would-be socialist is apparently proof that Williams is "grand and gracious." "There is something so American about it all," Lopez oozes. I'm rather afraid there is, at that.

At age 44, Polanski gave a 13-year girl champagne and quaaludes, then stuck his prick in her various orifices even though she repeatedly and clearly said “no”. If that’s not the rape of a child, what is? Some things are, in fact, quite simple. This is one of them.
Well, that is, plain and simple, what the victim’s grand jury testimony says. And it’s probably true, Mr. Freeman. It is not, on the other hand, what Polanski pled to, or admitted, in a docket that has already been adjuticated. Whether that grand jury testimony will even figure when and if Polanski goes to court in Los Angeles is as a matter of fact hardly a given. Nor is it likely that the victim will agree to reiterate that testimony. More’s the pity for you, I suppose. What’s really simple here, Mr. Freeman, is your indignation, your own creepy relish at words such as “prick,” and your ignorance of the legal niceties of the case. All of which you are of course entirely entitled to. Again, enjoy!
Glenn, I’m amazed that you’re more worked up over my use of a synonym for “penis” than you are over the fact that a 13-year-old girl was raped by a 44-year-old man who then lived a life of fame and luxury for 30+ years. I don’t understand how your brain works.
“I don’t understand how your brain works.” But I understand how yours does. You’re a living-room Torquemada, drunk on your own righteousness and mildly titillated by your command of lurid language. As I said, sir, you can have it. How much do you lose by not convincing me? Or is this “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” and you won’t stop until I go along or die?
Personally, I think the amazing thing is that people like Graham even care. Surely there are far greater crimes going unpunished. Not that Graham or those of his ilk seem all that familiar with, or fond of, the truth of the matter. Furthermore, the way this case has been politicized is positively absurd. Maybe I’m a terrible person, but I’m far more interested in Polanski’s films than in his penis.

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