In America, he is wanted. In France, he is desired. Worldwide, his films are praised for their ethereal, disturbing, and sometimes humorous qualities. But his life overshadows his accomplishments. He survived a concentration camp. His parents did not. He found Hollywood success with films such as Rosemary’s Baby, The Tenant, Repulsion, and The Fearless Vampire Killers. His marriage to wife Sharon Tate ended in a brutal homicide that took both her life and the life of their unborn child.The case would later introduce the world to Charles Manson, a crazy-eyed charismatic with a thirst for blood, and his murderous followers. It would also create a disdain in Polanski for the media, one that grew in the wake of an underage sex scandal several years later.
The life of Polanski is so far-fetched it can’t be anything but true. In Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, HBO takes a closer look at this life, particularly as it involves the controversial case that drove him from America, where he hasn’t officially returned for over 30 years.
Why stay gone for so long? Because a warrant still exists for his arrest, and the minute he steps foot on U.S. soil, he will stand trial for a sex act committed with a 13-year old girl in the late seventies. This documentary speaks to the girl, now 46 years old, as well as the prosecutor and defender, who found themselves allied against an opportunistic judge with nothing but political gain in mind. Does that make Polanski a victim? Hardly – this is a man, who in his forties knowingly had sex with a 13-year old girl. Taking his personal tragedies into consideration, one can feel a certain degree of sympathy for Polanski, but such an age difference is a little hard for any decent human being to argue with. With an open mind and a little hope this great director could not be capable of something so vilely criminal, imagine your disappointment upon discovering he did exactly what he was accused of doing. He should serve time out of irresponsibility alone, but he never will. The film is a little slanted toward the opposite viewpoint, but it’s still an effective piece of journalism that exposes a corrupt Justice System. It just treats a child molester a little too fairly. Still, for its subtle, aggravating biases, it remains a fascinating piece of work, much like the director himself.
Presented in 1.78:1 widescreen, the picture is no-frills, but a good, clean transfer. Flesh tones really pop, but there isn’t much else to recommend a film that does little more than place a camera on talking heads with cuts back to newsreel footage of Polanski. Unfortunately, Polanski is represented solely through the newsreel, although there is a good deal of discussion with him regarding the case – just no reflection.
Again, how technically stimulating can a film centered mostly on interviews be? While the disc comes equipped with a 5.1 surround track (as well as a 2.0 and audio commentary), the only noteworthy strength is the volume, which swells clearly throughout. You’ll have no trouble hearing this, and that’s all one can ask for when dealing with mostly static footage.
Don’t worry, the disc does not skimp in this area. Bonus materials include:
Commentary by Director Marina Zenovich and Editor Joe Bini: Zenovich and Bini let the film do most of their speaking. Discussed mostly are the experiences related to the film itself, and how it all came together, rather than an abundance of personal opinions.
Deleted Scenes: This is probably the shortest feature on the disc, not quite totaling ten minutes in length. Good cuts!
2 Hours of Never-Before-Seen Interviews: Wow, these just keep coming. I counted 37 individually filmed interviews with friends, colleagues, writers, court personnel. You name it. It’s here. As a whole, it’s like watching an additional film.
Roman Polanski may never return to the United States. It’s okay. He’s still making films (see his Oscar win for The Pianist), and the country’s been just fine without him. So while things are as they are, and that’s probably all they ever will be, Polanski and the United States have a win-win situation going. He can still make his art. Fans of his abilities are free to enjoy, both domestically and abroad. And the United States is home to one less child predator. As for this release, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is a strong but slanted piece of filmmaking with a capable A/V presentation that joins a loaded plate of extras for what is, to say the least, an intriguing package.