In my view, Chinatown (even though the ending leaves me feeling off) ranks alongside Star Wars and Rocky as one of the best movies of the 1970s. It earned Roman Polanski his second (of four) Oscar nominations for Best Director (and deservedly so).
He also raped a 13- year-old girl and has been much in the news lately since his arrest Saturday in Switzerland on an “arrest warrant stemming from a sex charge in California“.
I don’t have much to add to what a number of bloggers and pundits have said, highlighting the double standards of those Hollywood types who want bygones to be bygones and are outraged by the arrest. My friend John Nolte sums it up:
Pleading guilty to unlawful sex with an underage girl — the drugging, raping and sodomizing of a 13 year-old — isn’t stopping Hollywood from ginning up an indignation campaign over the possibility of fugitive director Roman Polanski being held accountable for his crimes. Yes, these are the values of those who control the most powerful propaganda device ever created. Which begs a question: If his unspeakable deed doesn’t meet the standard, what exactly would Roman Polanski have to do in order to become a pariah in this town … I mean, besides vote for Sarah Palin?
Read the whole thing. Somehow if you’re a great artiste, some Hollywood types contend, you should be excused for such indiscretions. Sorry, but no.
Yes, Polanski is a great artist, one of the most gifted filmmakers of our time. He also raped a 13-year-old girl. The one does not excuse the other. He’s been accused of a serious crime, should be tried in a court of law and punished severely if found guilty. He pleaded guilty to the charge and fled the country before his sentencing. He should be punished severely for this anything but minor infraction. [Thanks to my readers for alerting me to the error in the original.]
But, even that conviction will not diminish the quality of his work. He won’t be the first gifted artist convicted of a crime. His august cinematic stature does nothing to diminish his wrongdoing.
UPDATE: About those Hollywood types sympathetic for Polanski’s plight, Roger Simon writes:
The only “suffering” Polanski had to endure in all this is he had to live in Paris instead of Beverly Hills. Quelle tragédie.
The mess is metastasizing and seems to be headed for something extremely dangerous for the entertainment industry (or part of it) – the further alienation of the audience. These filmmakers are more than ever lost in their own narcissistic bubble, unaware that the public does not share their sympathy for Polanksi. (Even in France, according to a poll in Le Figaro, the public was seventy percent against him.) This was in evidence on the conventionally liberal HuffPo where the readership in the comments was in rebellion from its elite “leaders” on this issue. In the real world, people do not have great sympathy for child molesters. As we know, they don’t even have much sympathy in prison where they are the lowest of the low, the so-called “short eyes.”