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Why I Defend Polanski, More Than Ever

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I don't want to argue about the Polanski affair any longer.

Not with Tim Burton who, when asked about his comrade's situation, had nothing better to say than a vague, "We're all for freedom of expression, we fight for that every day"--which, in the best of cases, means nothing and in the worst, is a throw-away line designed to kick the ball into touch.

Nor with Michael Douglas, who was asked by RTL if he intended to sign the petition of film makers we recently launched with Jean-Luc Godard and who, in passing, merely asked that all the relevant elements needed to decide whether or not to comply with California's extradition request be communicated to the Swiss judicial authorities. In a confusing development of his answer, he replied that he "admired" Polanski but that this was a "judicial matter" that should be handled internally.

Nor with Gilles Jacob, president of the Festival, who, it must be remarked, also reacted untypically, for him, when interviewed by the same radio station: "There's the film maker and the citizen; the film maker is an immense film maker, but then there's the citizen, and no one is above the law." No, dear Gilles Jacob! Not you! Not that! I cannot believe that you are unaware of the exact status of the case and of the fact that your friend Roman Polanski has, indeed, not been above the law for the past thirty-three years!

I don't even want to lose my temper with those--who may be immense film makers but who are most certainly mediocre and craven "citizens"--who have made it known that, 'yes of course, the petition for Polanski...justice..law...but what about my interests as a film maker?' Can a filmmaker take the chance of missing out on a trinket from Cannes, for the love of justice and the law? And is this really the moment to parade next to this prestigious colleague, awarded the Palme d'Or in 2005 for The Pianist, but who has since become, thanks to the whims of a publicity-hungry California prosecutor up for election, a figure not to be seen with?

No. I just want to remind those who wish to hear them, and still can, the truths of fact and of common sense.

First of all, Polanski did not flee from American justice, as public opinion repeats, with pavlovian eagerness, everywhere. He returned to the United States. He was in France and he returned to the United States to serve his prison sentence as agreed upon, as is the custom in the United States, among the parties--his counsel, his victim's counsel, the District Attorney at the time and, naturally, the judge who presided over the case and confirmed their accord--at Chino State penitentiary.

As a result, Polanski paid; certainly, he committed a misdemeanor, but he paid for this misdemeanor. And he paid for it, incidentally, although no sex offender convicted of a similar misdemeanor in Los Angeles County that year spent a single day, I repeat, a single day, behind bars--in contrast to him, and contrary to the claims of amateur dispensers of justice who contend he was protected by his celebrity.

In other words, the Polanski affair began at the precise moment when the serving judge, under pressure from public opinion and a press steamed up by the demonic notoriety of the author Rosemary's Baby, chose to tear up the plea bargain or, more exactly, not to approve it. And it came back to life seven months ago when a publicity-hungry prosecutor, once again running for election, decided, like a character out of a Western and as he himself imprudently announced during a fund raiser, to bring Polanski back to his electorate dead or alive--and when he convinced the authorities of Switzerland, where the filmmaker has passed thrice-annual school vacations with his family for several years, in a chalet acquired with their benediction, to apprehend him, like a terrorist.

And finally, as for the latest episode, concerning an English actress who, pressed by a well-known Los Angeles attorney who counts among her scalps that of Tiger Woods, consider this Charlotte Lewis who recovered her memory after twenty-five years in order to lodge a last-minute claim for her fifteen minutes of fame or, perhaps, her thirty pieces of silver and who, in parenthesis, gave an entirely different version of the affair in an interview with News of the World ten years ago (not 16, but 17--"I wanted to be his mistress"--not to mention the nauseating part of her confession in which she describes the period previous to her encounter with the director of "Pirates", when, as a child of 14, she sold her charms to "older men" and admits she "doesn't know how many men she slept with for money at the time"). As for these alleged revelations, as for this so-called new affair, immediately repeated in a loop by the media worldwide, without a shadow of verification, all of it makes it abundantly clear that this is a matter not of law, but of a manhunt.

Last Sunday, I declared that this pathetic piece of blackmail has not shaken my determination to defend Polanski one iota.

And if it remains unshaken, it is because by doing so, I have the feeling I am defending not a friend (I repeat, for the nth time, I did not know Roman Polanski before the affair) but the Law.