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Polanski Redux: Who Lied?

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood September 30, 2009 at 11:53AM

As the Roman Polanski imbroglio continues to unfold in various quarters, I am fascinated by the swirling reactions to his legal situation.
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Thompson on Hollywood

As the Roman Polanski imbroglio continues to unfold in various quarters, I am fascinated by the swirling reactions to his legal situation.

It's murky to say the least.

One can see why Polanski avoided sentencing at the time by the judge in the case, as revealed by Marina Zenovich's documentary, Wanted and Desired. He had good reason not to trust the judge. Now the retired prosecutor Zenovich quoted in the doc is saying that he lied to her. UPDATE: Here is Zenovich's response:

“I am perplexed by the timing of David Wells’ statement to the press that he lied in his interview with me for the documentary ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED. Since June of 2008, the film has been quite visible on U.S. television via HBO, in theaters and on DVD, so it is odd that David Wells has not brought this issue to my attention before.

“For the record, on the day I filmed Mr. Wells at the Malibu Courthouse, February 11, 2005, he gave me a one-hour interview. He signed a release like all my other interviewees, giving me permission to use his interview in the documentary worldwide. At no time did I tell him that the film would not air in the United States.

“Mr. Wells was always friendly and open with me. At no point in the four years since our interview has he ever raised any issues about its content. In fact, in a July 2008 story in The New York Times, Mr. Wells corroborated the account of events that he gave in my film.

“I am astonished that he has now changed his story. It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers when something like this happens.”


And the motivations of the LA prosecutors over the years are obscure. Why didn't they pick him up years ago? Why now?

And yet Polanski's defenders overstate his innocence, acting as though he did absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. He behaved badly. He pled guilty. He skipped sentencing. He is not, as a rich and "humane" filmmaker, entirely above the law.

Just because the victim of his crime is seemingly unscathed and grown up doesn't mean Polanski should not be held liable, now that the wheels of justice are again turning, for what he did at the time. It's strange, because looking back from the perspective of 30 years, we see both the young man and the old man, the libertine and the gifted eminence grise with a best director Oscar. It's because of the strange time lag that it is difficult to parse the right and wrong in this case.

This article is related to: Directors, Players, Media


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.