For all the films that he’s made in the last 33 years, from the great to the dreadful, everything that Roman Polanski‘s done has been overshadowed by his 1978 sexual assault of a thirteen-year-old girl. The director was arrested and charged with six counts, including rape, but in a bargain with the courts, plead guilty only to “Unlawful Sexual Intercourse with a minor,” and was sentenced to 90 days in prison. On his release, however, it was suggested by the judge that Polanski would face more prison time, and the helmer fled to France, where he’s lived in exile ever since.
Famously, Polanski was headed to the Zurich Film Festival in 2009 to pick up a lifetime achievement award when he was arrested by the Swiss authorities, and deportation proceedings begun against him, although they were later dropped. Last night, which marked two years since the arrest, Polanski finally picked up the award, and had a surprise with him; an documentary, kept secret until now, entitled “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir,” which premiered at the festival after the ceremony.
The film isn’t by Polanski himself — it’s directed by Laurent Bouzereau, who’s been behind many of the seminal behind-the-scenes documentaries for filmmakers like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, as well as Polanski — but according to The Hollywood Reporter, the director takes center stage, the film being made up of a long conversation between him and his producer on “Macbeth” and “The Tenant,” Andrew Braunsberg, shot during his house arrest while awaiting his possible deportation.
Their discussion seems to span everything from his childhood in Poland and his escape from the Warsaw ghetto to recent films, but the most headline-worthy piece of news seems to be that Polanski uses the film to publicly apologize to his victim, Samantha Greimer, although not taking the entirety of the blame; he apparently says “She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press” — something that Greimer herself has concurred with in recent statements.
The question is whether this documentary will ever see the light of day; considering it seems to be less-than-cinematic, we wouldn’t bet on anything beyond a festival run, although it’s possible that a small distributor might pick it up. Given Bouzereau’s background, it might well end up surfacing on some future DVD as an extra — perhaps “Carnage,” which plays NYFF this weekend before hitting theaters on December 16th.