The Venice Film Festival revealed their much-anticipated line-up yesterday, and it was full of surprises. Todd Phillips’s Joker will make its world premiere in competition, which was a major shock considering comic book movies don’t tend to get such prestigious platforms. There are new films from James Gray (Ad Astra), Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story), and Hirokazu Kore-eda (The Truth), to name but three. In terms of female directors, the competition slate includes a grand total of two: Haifaa al-Mansour and Shannon Murphy. That’s an improvement from last year, where only one woman got to compete for the Golden Lion.
And also Roman Polanski is in competition.
You know good old Roman, eh? The man who drugged and raped a thirteen-year-old girl then fled America to avoid prosecution? The man who has never faced consequences for violating a young woman and who insists he did nothing wrong? The child rapist who has spent the past forty years or so avoiding justice and still having praised heaped upon him as a genius of modern cinema? Yup, that guy.
He’ll be in competition with J’accuse, also known as An Officer and a Spy. Based on a book by Robert Harris, this is based on a true story of French officer Georges Picquart, who worked to expose the truth about a man who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. Gee, that’s definitely something we want to see Polanski cover. The movie stars Jean Dujardin, Louis Garrel, and Emmanuelle Seigner (Polanski’s wife).
When asked to explain the decision to allow a literal child rapist into one of the world’s most beloved and acclaimed film festivals, artistic chief Alberto Barbera told Variety exactly what you imagined he would say:
This is a great movie. We’re talking the same level as “The Pianist”…And I have no doubt it will be recognized as such. The only thing you can do is distinguish between the man and the artist. Polanski is a great artist, one of the last great European auteurs. I didn’t hesitate for a second in taking it…
I don’t want to get into the whole issue. When you go see a painting by Caravaggio, you are seeing a work by an assassin who, after killing a man, had to escape to Palermo. It’s ridiculous. If you can’t make a distinction between the culpability of a person and that person’s value as an artist, you aren’t going to get anywhere.
Polanski’s problems with L.A. County and his conscience are his personal problems, aside from the fact that I think that, after 40 years of tribulations, he’s paid for what he did. But [for me] as a festival director, what counts is that he made a great movie.
Yeah, no. He never paid for what he did because he fled the country and can never return to America because then he would be arrested and be forced to pay for what he did. He’s a coward, pure and simple. And boy, am I sick of these weasels pretending that the academic theory (and remember, it is just a theory) of death of the author is the irrefutable get-out-of-jail-free card for this bullsh*t. Polanski has spent decades being worshipped as a tragic bad boy artist. He’s won Oscars, the Palme D’Or, four Cesar Awards for Best Director, and a slew of acclaim across the planet. When he dies, they probably won’t mention the child rape until a few paragraphs in, following an adoring list of his directorial achievements. He will get to leave this planet as a beloved artist first and a child rapist second because film festivals and the industry-at-large spent decades allowing him to be cloaked in that secure image.
We can take solace in the knowledge that at least this film probably won’t get a release in British and American territories. When the producers took J’accuse to Cannes to find distributors, US companies wanted nothing to do with it. But European ones did. The whole child rapist thing is nothing to worry about, eh?
Burn this sh*t down.
Header Image Source: Getty Images.