Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Polanski Hypocrisy

Amid the many reactions to director Roman Polanski's arrest last weekend in Switzerland more than 30 years after he fled the U.S. after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, none have been as strong as those of the international film community. A petition demanding his release has attracted over 100 film-world signatories, including luminaries from Martin Scorsese and Costa-Gavras to David Lynch and Wong Kar Wai.

Reading the petition, you could be forgiven for thinking that the dispute was over some obscure diplomatic codicil. Its principal focus is on the mechanics of the arrest, namely Switzerland's detention of Mr. Polanski on a U.S. request as he was traveling to the Zurich Film Festival. It cites Switzerland's status as a "neutral country" and the "extraterritorial nature" of film festivals. The substance of his guilty plea and the circumstances of the crime receive only glancing mention, in a single line: "His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals."

One would never know that those easily brushed off "morals"—rape and pedophilia—have actually been a central concern of some of the petition's signatories.

I'm baffled by people defending him.

In their depictions of these acts, the directors and actors in question seem keenly aware of the extreme violence of rape and the terrible psychological consequences that follow its victims for years afterward. But for them, apparently, life doesn't imitate art. Still, some film-world names were notable for their absence from the petition. Director Luc Besson refrained from signing it, noting, in an interview with RTL Soir, "I don't have any opinion on this, but I have a daughter, 13 years old. And if she was violated, nothing would be the same, even 30 years later."

Not have an opinion? He does, and it is the right one. Mr. Paletta is an editor at the Manhattan Institute, which is a conservative think tank.

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