Everyone has an opinion about the underage sex conviction that resulted in Roman Polanski’s flight and exile from the United States, whether they know anything about it or not. Whatever that opinion may be, documentarian Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanksi: Wanted and Desired” might change it.
While most people know the basics, few understand the complicated behind-the-scenes process that led to the fall of one of the greatest living filmmakers. Zenovich skillfully lays out a well-researched, empathetic study. Without trying to vindicate Polanski’s actions, Zenovich explores the Kafkaesque legal process that tortured both the victim and the perpetrator.
The documentary uses the incident to recall Polanski’s tragic personal history, including his holocaust survival and the murder of his wife, but focuses mainly on the intricacies of the trial. Zenovich offers the opinions of the defendant and prosecutor, the victim and other people who were close to the events. Polanski represents himself in archival interviews. The various opinions aren’t always what you’d anticipate.
Clips from Polanski’s films compliment and contrast with the historical information (we see the favorite phone call scene from “Rosemary’s Baby” during the discussion of a phone call). And the archival news footage is plentiful, due to the media blitz of the time. The film is most remarkable when it exposes the ease with which the press and a self-obsessed judge can pervert the country’s justice system.