Known as much for his personal life as for his film career, director Roman Polanski’s last scandal, for having illegal sex with a 13 year old and his flight from justice, still polarizes the public. “I don’t care,” said one viewer after a private screening of a new documentary, Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, a conversation between his longtime friend, producer Andrew Braunsberg and the filmmaker while he was under house arrest in Gstaad, Switzerland, “he still had sex with a teen.”
Surviving the war, Polanski was an art student before he was accepted into the prestigious Lodz film school and acted in a film directed by Andrej Wadja. His first feature, Knife in the Water, angered the Communist regime but became a hit in Europe. Repulsion, with Catherine Deneuve, was his attempt at a horror film; he finds it a compromise to his real ambitions at filmmaking. Audiences may judge for themselves: Repulsion opens at Film Forum on Halloween for a two week run.
The horror genre does not compare to the real life of murder of his pregnant wife Sharon Tate by the Manson clan. At the time, the media pointed to Polanski, who was in London completing a film, for having something to do with the rampage. The scandal with Samantha Geimer would follow, with the media outing her despite attempts to keep her identity hidden. As she has said, the tabloids caused more harm than Polanski did. He has apologized to her and her mother. Now a family man, married to actress Emmanuelle Seigner for decades and the father of two, he is making a movie of David Ives’ stage play, Venus in Fur, with his wife to star.
Supported by a close cadre of friends, family, and artistic collaborators, Roman Polanski by his own admission leads a good life. See this documentary as a record of a man whose unusual life and fine work reflect a key historic moment.