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Low and mighty

Movies | Bio flick fails to address Roman Polanski's sense of entitlement

Issue: "NextGen worship," July 26, 2008

The new documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired sets out to settle the score on director Roman Polanski's controversial 1977 rape trial. Polanski, a Polish survivor of the Holocaust, has lived a life as plagued by scandal and tragedy as distinguished by career accolades. While creating such lauded films as Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist, Polanski's life has been turned upside down by his mother's death at the hands of the Nazis, his wife's murder at the hands of the Manson family, and the consequences of his sexual appetites.

A filmmaker in Poland and England, Polanski moved to America in the late '60s, where he was embraced by Hollywood and quickly took to the freewheeling lifestyle. He married actress Sharon Tate in 1968, but she was murdered a year later while eight months pregnant.

Known as a playboy before and after his marriage, Polanski's penchant for young girls caught up to him in 1977, when 13-year-old Samantha Gailey accused him of raping her during a photo shoot.

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The film follows the strange events of the trial that followed, examining both the benefits and drawbacks of celebrity life. Polanski, who never felt he did anything inappropriate, negotiated a plea bargain for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. The film paints the judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, as obsessed with making a lesson of his famous defendant, no matter the rules of the law.

But while Wanted and Desired makes a fascinating study in celebrity and its negative effects, it does not address the sense of entitlement that Polanski seems to demonstrate throughout the proceedings. A wealthy, powerful man, he seemed to think that his high-priced lawyers would get him out of trouble. When it looked like they might fail, he fled the country.

Amid the intense pressures of public life, Polanski is as unbending as Judge Rittenband, unwilling to curb his wanton lifestyle and generally refusing to acknowledge the severity of what he's done.

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