Roman Polanski, director of Oscar-winning movies such as Chinatown and most recently The Pianist, has led the creepiest life.
He escaped the Holocaust, but not before serving as target practice for a squad of Nazis. Then he became a celebrated movie director, marrying beautiful starlet Sharon Tate. Then came the notorious Manson family attack in which pregnant Sharon was brutally and senselessly murdered.
Obviously stricken by grief, Polanski had illegal sex with a 13-year-old girl, was arrested, fled the U.S., and spent the next 30 years on the lam. Finally, this week, lured into a sense of false security, he was captured after landing in Zurich to receive a lifetime filmmaking achievement award.
Someone should make a movie about this man’s life.
We could call it Repulsion II. I’m still suffering nightmares from Repulsion I, which I saw at an impressionable age. Catherine Deneuve plays a woman whose fear of men leads to a psychotic breakdown and she slides over the edge into brutal murder. We are left to wonder what traumatic episode in her early life led her to fear men so.
Cut to the mid-’70s when Polanski himself, already a dirty old 43, plied 13-year-old Samantha Gailey with Quaaludes (’70s designer downers) and champagne and had sex with her, no doubt contributing to her fear of men.
Overnight, Polanski went from being the toast of Hollywood to toast. Rather than spend the rest of his weird life in jail, he repaired to France, where he remains a hero, along with Jerry Lewis and Mickey Rourke. Ah, the French.
But he wasn’t counting on his Javert, Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, who waited in the weeds to bag his prey. Now it’s an international incident.
The argument is the ’70s were a different time. The sexual revolution led to any number of wretched excesses and the victim, now in her 40s, has forgiven Polanski and is part of the movement to have him freed.
But here’s what I don’t understand. In this day and age when it’s considered a heinous crime for dirty old men even to look at pictures of underage girls, why should we give Polanski a get-out-of-jail free card? What kind of message are we sending? That if you’re talented and celebrated, there’s such a thing as justifiable evil?
Haven’t we learned anything in 32 years? Raping and exploiting children are crimes. It doesn’t matter who you are. It’s time for this to stop and it’s time for Polanski to face the music, and I don’t mean piano lessons. They should get that, even in France.