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Roman Polanski picked up the Best Director award at the Berlin Film Festival yesterday evening. Well, he didn’t literally pick it up—-his written acceptance statement is quick to remind the world of that recent unpleasantness that has inhibited Polanski from the very important business of fancy prize collection. From the Guardian:
The 76-year old film-maker, who was unable to attend the awards ceremony because he is under house arrest in his Swiss chalet, sent a pithy acceptance statement via his producers, saying: “Even if I could be there I wouldn’t, because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize, I ended up in jail.”
Some critics will argue that Polanski won the festival’s “Silver Bear” award for best director solely based on the artistic merit of his film, the Ghost Writer, and not at all in order to exonerate him in his 30-year-old sex case. Polanski, apparently, is not one of them, as he continues to dangerously conflate his duel roles as famous film director and famous accused rapist.
To Polanski, the international justice system that has forced him to remain under house arrest until his case is resolved has intentionally victimized him as an artist, thereby denying the world the honor of celebrating the cinematic genius of Roman Polanski. In reality, Polanski didn’t “end up in jail”—-oh, what a passive victim he’s played in this whole charade—-because he showed up to receive accolades for his achievements. He “ended up in jail” because he failed to show up to receive punishment for his failures. Polanski isn’t allowed to travel to Berlin because it’s likely he will slip authorities and never return, like he did last time, and not because a bunch of sore federal governments just don’t want poor Polanski to have a nice time for being such a swell director.
The international justice system, actually, is unconcerned with Polanski’s creative output—-it is exclusively concerned with Polanski’s criminal history. In Roman Polanski’s world, this singular view of the law is a travesty against art. And so, Polanski attempts to turn winning an award for a movie into a defiant act, a statement against all the critics who would criticize him—-not on the basis of his art, but on the basis of him having sex with forcing sex on a 13-year-old and skipping town.
Making great films and sexually assaulting minors are not mutually exclusive activities. This obvious truth has yet to sink in for Polanski, and it probably never will. In Polanski’s sad, ski-chalet-confined world, his cinematic gifts should be enough to set him free. Under this strange karmic equation, the benefit a film like the Ghost Writer provides to Berlin Film Festival judges like Werner Herzog and Renée Zellweger somehow balances out the harm Polanski caused to a 13-year-old girl in California 30 years ago. It’s unclear whether Herzog, Zellweger, and the festival’s other judges chose Polanski as Best Director out of political solidarity or pure artistic appreciation. If it’s the former, the decision to honor Polanski sends the bizarre message that making a great film is not as important as making an incoherent political statement regarding your personal problems.