Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski: "The Balance Sheet Paradox" Redux

Figured this post became topical again...though unfortunately, this post seems to get topical every few days...

"Do the things you do in life that are extremely awesome "balance out" the things you do in life that are extremely not awesome?"


"Can we have and approve both: the sacred and the profane in the same person, good and bad wrapped up in equal measures? Can we love the good and ignore or condemn the bad? Or are there certain absolutes or lines that, once crossed, stains every other act?"

As for the Roman Polanski case itself, I'm not getting into an online debate with anybody on it regarding the pros and cons, because if I had to guess there's at least one person out there who would wear themselves out telling me that I'm categorically wrong. But feel free to discuss amongst yourselves. EDIT: and feel free to use the grand jury testimony.

"Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."


  1. The paradox is considering whether or not his 30-plus years on the lam is the same as his being in a 4x4 prison cell for however many years he was facing on the statutory rape and drug charges.

    The problem is that during those 30-plus years, you can't argue that Polanski truly suffered in any way: true, he couldn't visit places like England or the U.S. for fear of extradition, but he lived comfortably in France and was able to visit and cohabit in Poland all the time. He was also able to continue film-making during that period, especially films for American consumption (Frantic and Ninth Gate come to mind).

    When it comes down to it, Polanski rejected the justice system when he fled, and refused to accept accountability where it was due. If his victim has forgiven him, that's good for her. But he still needs to answer for 1) what he did to her and 2) for his flight from justice.

  2. Was able to walk in public as a free man? Check.

    Was able to enjoy creature comforts in his own house? Check.

    Was able to continue his livelihood? Check.

    His life on the lam was comparable to prison how exactly?

  3. There is one point that has gotten missed here. The reason Polanski fled was not to evade prosecution. He pled guilty. A deal for a reduced sentence had already been agreed upon. Then, as recent reports have it, the judge was overheard saying that he was going to make an example of Polanski and drastically increase the sentence. Somehow this got back to Roman and he decided to flee rather than submit to an apparant injustice.
    Who wouldn't at least consider flight, especially if you have some means and somewhere safe to flee? I'm not saying he should be free, all charges dropped and sorry-for-all-that-mess. He should return to the US and serve out the original, agreed upon sentence. If the law provides for an additional penalty for flight, then perhaps he should serve that too. However, no judge should be allowed to go back on a deal that all parties had agreed upon.

    If the question is "does making good, or even great art absolve the artist from being a schmuck?" I say no. A schmuck is still a schmuck, regardless of the relative merits of their creations.

  4. I get the idea of the paradox and with Michael Jackson it was muddied by his lack of a conviction. More then likely if you thought he was guilty, then your opinion in the regard was he didn't "balance" his sheet but that discussion could go in circles for a while.

    In this case though, its seems clear cut. He was convicted, he fled. Creating "art" doesn't change the fact that he never served his time.

    Who I feel bad though is his victim. Her life has been torn asunder all over again. Once again she has relive the experience over and over. Once again, she is "famous" for being his victim and doesn't have the privacy that she likely worked hard to build. No matter how this falls (for or against Polanski), her life has been disrupted in a massive way once again and will be at least a few more times (after all the litigation on his status, if he goes to jail and gets out, and whenever he dies). So she sadly will have to deal with this all over again at least three more times.

  5. To risk invoking Godwin's Law, I can think of a reputedly great orator . . . And wait, we're still locking up people who followed his orders despite the fact that they're older than Polanski. They've been "living in exile" too. Justice is Justice, and those statues wear a blindfold for just this reason.

    Someone's talent doesn't negate the morality of their actions. The fact that someone is a brilliant director doesn't change the fact that he's a scumbag child rapist and fugitive from justice. Of course, the fact that someone is a scumbag doesn't change the fact that they're talented either. So, let him keep his oscar and lock him up.

    Funny how Hollywood wasn't so forgiving of Elia Kazan, and all he did was cave under pressure and name a few names to the HUAC. And Kazan had a far greater impact on the arts than Polanski ever will. Hypocrites.

  6. I'm wondering what Jack Nicholson's role in this all is... If he was aware that there was topless photo taking of a 13-year old, then wouldn't he be aiding & abetting (or whatever it's called)?

    This doesn't invalidate any charges against Polanski, but I think there's a shitload going on in Hollywood that we never hear about, especially in those 'liberated' times when drugs and girls (underage or not) were freely available to the rich and famous.

    Why it was Polanski that was left hung out to dry (also regarding that judge planning to renege on the lesser charges deal) is perhaps because Polanski was for all practical purposes not "one of us". Not a pure bred American box office star, but a Eastern Europe immigrant, whose main output had been 'disturbing' films which bordered on 'art house'.

  7. Sometimes I can separate the artist from the art and enjoy the art even though I despise the artist. Polanski falls into that category. I admire his film making and abhor his actions.

    I can't do this with every artist -- Madonna skeeves me out so bad I can't enjoy her music, even though I recognize rationally that some of it is good.

  8. Polanski wasn't promised anything with regards to prison time. Don't believe everything your read from his defenders. What does the court records say in regards to sentencing?
    from page 12 of the document:

    “Do you understand that at this time, the Court has not made any decision as to what sentence you will receive?
    Polanski: No response.

    “Do you understand that the Judge has not made any decision?
    Polanski: Yes

    “Further, do you realize that this Court will not make any decision regarding probation and sentence [until] after it has read and considered the report….
    Polanski: Yes

    The judge changed his mind and he was legally allowed to. Was there a deal between the defense and the prosecution? Yes, but the judge didn't have to honor it! Plain and simple, Polanski escaped justice.

  9. To be clear - I do believe in "you had your ride, you pays your fare" (how crass it may sound), so he should go on trial and face the consequences. I understand that the penalties for such crimes have gone up since 1977 - well, that's what happens if you delay your sentencing.

    Polanski should go on trial, and if found guilty he should go to jail. No doubt about that. Add extra penalty for 'obstructing the course of justice' if you will.

    However, the gist of my comment was that I would also hope that other Hollywood players (now, or from the hedonistic times) are not protected by their reputation of 'good American' or by their box office potential.

  10. Anonymous2:03 PM

    I saw a clip of Whoopi Goldberg trying to defend him. I got sick.

  11. I would argue that the most important person in this case is not Polanski, but his victim. Regardless of how I feel about Polanski's actions, she wants the matter closed - I would assume due to the unwanted publicity and attention she gets everytime Polanski's name makes a news item. To be honest, I think her wishes matter most in this case.

    On the other hand...

    I would like to preface this by saying I'm more liberal than most people. I never really had an opinion on this matter, as I never really read into his whole case and issues surrounding it. Now that I have, it bothers me that an everyday drunken schmuck who pees in an alleyway (or similarly inappropriate place) after leaving a bar on Mardi Gras can be added to a sex offenders list (for indecent exposure) and generally be shunned by society simply by being added to the list, not to mention 17 year old boys and girls charged with statutory rape for having consensual sex with significant others of the same age. But, if you directed Chinatown, and you decide to drug and rape a 13 year-old after taking nude photos of the victim, not only do you get to spend the rest of your life in France a free man, but Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Johnny Depp, Frank Langella, Lena Olin, and Adrian Brody will go out of their way over the next thirty years to work with you, promote your work on TV shows (basically, aid and abet a known felon), and speak up for you as if you were the most important political prisoner since Mandela.

    Just seems kind of ridiculous to me. Anyone see Whoopi Goldberg defend Polanski on The View?

    Here's a quote:

    “The language that we use here is very important, because, (rape) is not the allegation…
    I know it wasn’t rape-rape… All I’m trying to get you to understand, is when we’re talking about what someone did, and what they were charged with, we have to say what it actually was not what we think it was…
    Initially he was charged with rape, and then he pled guilty to having sex with a minor, okay. And then he went to jail, and when they let him out, he said “you know what, this guy’s going to give me a hundred years in jail, I’m not staying.” And that’s why he left…
    We’re a different kind of society. We see things differently. The world sees 13 year olds and 14 year olds in the rest of Europe… not everybody agrees with the way we see things…”


  12. Addendum to my previous post:

    Mulling it over more, I don't think he should go unpunished by any means. I think the best course of action will be to involve the victim in the proceedings as little as possible.

  13. I wish I hadn't read that testimonial summary.