Home > Film, Reviews > Film Review: Roman Polanski – Wanted and Desired

Film Review: Roman Polanski – Wanted and Desired

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008; Directed by Marina Zenovich)

A superb documentary that is rarely, if ever, objective about its subject, Wanted and Desired examines the strange, tragic and frustratingly unresolved saga of Polish-French film director Roman Polanski. Famous not only for superb, stylish films like Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist but also for suffering through the 1969 murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate by the Manson Family, Polanski has become notorious after being arrested for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 and subsequently fleeing the United States and avoiding the charges since. In his self-necessitated exile, he has continued making films but has not yet faced justice for his law-breaking behaviour, a source of continued controversy.

With no over-arching narration, the remembrances of talking heads are relied upon for exposition and observation, and above all for opinion on the contentious subject at the centre of the film. Wanted and Desired takes on the child-rape charges that continue to animate the still-active Polanski controversy head-on, but employs a tone of circumstantial dismissal of punishment for the crime, for the most part. Polanski himself comes across as excessively casual, careless even; how much of that is simple Continental jouissance and how much is transference of buried grief is known to none. Attempts are quite obviously made to connect the tragedies and follies of his life with his art, but I think his films are best seen as artful tangents from what he’s lived through, escapes into related but obscured aesthetic fantasy. The main issue that remains alive at the core of Polanski’s tale is whether undeniable cinematic artistry and considerable personal tragedy, as well as a proscription of movements and constant worry at being extradited to the U.S., balances out an act as heinous as knowingly drugging and sexually assaulting a minor. One should not need to make such an obvious point, but just because Polanski made Chinatown and his pregnant wife was brutally slaughtered by hippie maniacs does not absolve him from the crime even he can’t help but admit that he committed.

Whether one feels that Polanski’s 30-year exile from his adopted country is punishment enough for his crimes (or felonies, or moral failures, or whatever you choose to call them), it’s hard to argue with the film’s explication of the bizarre miscarriage of justice that was his legal proceedings. It’s truly an odd sequence of legal events, and director Marina Zenovich embraces the procedural strangeness of it, perhaps as an escape from the thornier questions that lay behind it. Despite this focus on legal technicality over moral absolutes (or perhaps because of it), Wanted and Desired emerges as an exceedingly well-made documentary that generally does ask the right questions, though not always with the right degree of amplification, it should be said.

Categories: Film, Reviews

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