NYFF 2012 Review: ROMAN POLANSKI: ODD MAN OUT

In 2008, director Marina Zenovich re-opened old wounds with the release of her film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, a documentary about the titular filmmaker's infamous 1977 rape trial. It shined a light on a number of alleged inappropriate and illegal actions taken by the judge at the time, which ultimately led to Polanski's decision to flee the country. These were details the average person calling for the director's blood was ignorant of, and they made for a fascinating film.

But maybe it did Polanski more harm than good. Some of the wounds Zenovich scratched belonged to sleeping dogs, and their re-opening roused the ornery beasts from their slumber.

In 2009 Polanski was invited to the Zurich Film Festival in Switzerland to accept a lifetime achievement award. To the surprise of many, he agreed to attend. But upon arriving at the airport, he wasn't greeted by representatives of the festival; he was greeted by the Swiss police and was promptly taken into custody as a fugitive. His arrest and the events that followed are the subject of Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, Zenovich's follow-up to Wanted and Desired.

One of the big questions the film asks is: Why had the Swiss government suddenly decided to nab the 75-year-old director after all these years? Polanski owns a chalet in Switzerland and had always come and gone as he pleased. He was practically a citizen. Someone or something must have lit a fire under Switzerland's neutral ass.

Like its predecessor, Odd Man Out digs deep for the truth, exposing corruption, personal agendas, and even -- conspiratorially -- financial dealings between the United States and Swiss governments. It contains many details the average headline-glancer at the time was not privy to. For instance, the deliberation over Polanski's extradition was not based on whether or not he was guilty of rape (or engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, if we're being technical). That matter had been settled by the courts back in the 70s. The decision had to do with whether or not he had been treated fairly by the US justice system. At least superficially. There was also the ongoing conflict between the US and Switzerland over billions of dollars in unpaid taxes by Americans with Swiss bank accounts to consider.

Now, a lot of the evidence Zenovich presents to support that claim is conjecture, but it is an interesting theory. Since the release of Wanted and Desired, the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office had once again reared its power-hungry head with the intention of righting a 40-year-old wrong against the court. Also, elections were coming up and examples had to be made. Could it be the Swiss were using Polanski as a bargaining chip?    

And while we're dragging up the past, no account of Polanski's fugitive status would be complete without input from victim Samantha Geimer, who claims to have had enough of the media circus, but continues to speak out and is currently writing a book on the subject. While not really having anything to do with the legal proceedings which make up the bulk of the film, her comments and those of her mother put an interesting slant on the ordeal as a whole.

Odd Man Out is a necessary continuation of the story that started with Wanted and Desired. It is a provocative film full of strong opinions and moral gray areas. If it seems like Zenovich is going a little easy on Polanski this time around, maybe it's because she felt this whole fiasco was somehow her fault. Or maybe it's because the guilty/not guilty argument isn't the crux of this film. Either way, it's certainly not a puff piece; it is a well-rounded account of an unfortunate but engrossing part of Hollywood history.  

Have we heard the last of this story? Possibly. I don't see Polanski giving up his few remaining years to rail against an ancient malfeasance. He seems more concerned with making films and spending time with his family. But whether the LA County DA's office feels it's time to close the book and move on is another matter.  

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out screens Tuesday, October 2 at 9pm. TICKETS.

Joshua Chaplinsky is the Managing Editor for LitReactor.com. He also writes for ChuckPalahniuk.net. He was a guitarist in the band SpeedSpeedSpeed, and is the poison pen behind thejamminjabber, although he's not so sure he should admit it.


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