Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out

****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out begins where Marina Zenovich's Emmy award-winning 2008 documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired ends. That is, not exactly. This engrossing follow-up documentary about the legal controversy and extradition request for the filmmaker to the US after more than 30 years, starts with a quote by Saint Nicholas of Flüe, fifteenth-century hermit, a patron saint of Switzerland, and his counsel: "Don't get involved in other people's affairs."

In a balancing act, Zenovich holds to the light events surrounding Polanski and his legal team, Samantha Geimer, the victim, and her mother, Susan Gailey, in Hawaii, the District Attorney in L.A., and the UBS banking scandal in Switzerland. "We are now in the shadowy world of Chinatown", a continent-spanning concept, with Polanski in his seventies as an instrument in an international finance game.

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When Polanski travels to Zürich in September 2009 to accept a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Zürich Film Festival, while still in the process of editing his film The Ghost, he is arrested at the airport, sent to prison, and later put under house arrest in his chalet in Gstaad.

"In some ways it was my fault," Zenovich blames herself and her previous film for what happened. Polanski's lawyers used her documentary Wanted And Desired as evidence of judicial and prosecutorial misconduct. The statutory rape case of the 13-year old Samantha Geimer, that happened in 1977 and made Polanski flee to Europe in 1978, returned once more to the front pages of magazines and newspapers.

During the press conference via skype at the New York Film Festival, Zenovich commented on how much she disliked being encircled by "the tabloidness of it all," and that "this case brings out such venom on each side."

The title of the documentary is never explained. Odd Man Out is the name of Carol Reed's 1947 film about "political unrest," concerned with "the conflict in the hearts of the people when they become unexpectedly involved." Polanski called it a favorite film of his.

Polanski (who at age 76 was the oldest prisoner in Switzerland), his wife, actress Emmanuelle Seigner and their children, are bombarded with the endless assaults by the paparazzi, holed up in the vacation home that used to be a place of calm.

Which brings us to the core question the film asks. Why the arrest at that time, when Polanski had been skiing and relaxing at his second home in the Swiss Alps for years, while living in Paris?

A visit to Susan Geimer, who lives with her family in Hawaii, is most revealing. Especially the interview with her mother, who, so many years ago, sent her 13 year old child to a party with Polanski and Jack Nicholson. It gives a taste of un-confronted horrors. Geimer herself states that she forgave Polanski a long time ago, "to be a healthier person." "I have been victimised by a lot more people. He's at the bottom of my list," she says.

Zenovich attempts answers by linking publicised secret operations by the Swiss government. The year 2009 is, after all, "the beginning of the end of the banking secrets." Polanski's chalet looks like the house under surveillance by helicopters in The Ghost, for which he wins the Golden Bear in Berlin while under house arrest. Philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy pops up frequently in the documentary to comment. He was one of the named supporters who started collecting signatures to "free Polanski."

The Swiss minister of Justice will not extradite due to technical errors. 4,500 account holder names are handed over to the US government. In Hawaii, Samantha is writing a book.

Zenovich ends her film with a song by Emmanuelle Seigner, who croons "call me - forget me not." I asked the director about this entrancing and somewhat puzzling choice. She told me, she liked the tone of the song, and that she also ended her earlier film with a song by Polanski's wife, who, at that time, she was surprised to find out, was a singer. "It captures what they went through."

Last year, the New York Film Festival opened with Carnage, set in a Brooklyn apartment, filmed in a studio-built set outside Paris. The closing shots of Brooklyn Bridge Park and the bridge were shot without Polanski's presence. The story is not over, yet. Will we ever see him walk over the bridge with Nibbles, the hamster by his side? On the left, you see the Statue of Liberty, and once you reach Manhattan, you are getting closer to Chinatown.

Reviewed on: 23 Sep 2012
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A follow-up to Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, looking at recent developments in the director's legal situation.
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Director: Marina Zenovich

Year: 2012

Runtime: 88 minutes

Country: US

Festivals:

New York 2012

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