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CAN: Roman Polanski: Wanted Dead and Desired

05.26.2008

ROMAN POLANSKI:
WANTED AND DESIRED

Directed by: Marina Zenovich
Starring: Roman Polanski, Mia Farrow, Sharon Tate

PLOT: WANTED AND DESIRED is an in-depth documentary that thoroughly covers writer/director Roman Polanski's 1977 statutory rape trial which eventually led to his sudden "I'm so out of here!" from the United States.

CRITIQUE: I've been a fan of Roman Polanski since I caught his chilling masterpiece REPULSION in film school. I've followed his hits and his "hits even when they miss" movies ever since then (OLIVER TWIST excluded). I was always aware of Mr. Polanski's sordid past, but only on a basic level. His pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by Manson Family members and later down the road, he fled the States to live in France after getting pinched doing the horizontal mambo with a minor (13 year old at the time, Samantha Gailey). That's all I knew... and now I know that I knew nothing! Thanks to this fine documentary, consider me educated.

WANTED AND DESIRED set its stage firmly from the get-go with shots of where the "crime" happened (Jack Nicholson's home of all places) accompanied by "in trial" quotes from Gailey and Polanski as to their sides of the coin. Then, it provided us with a quick glimpse of Polanski's youth (where he was born, his parents' stay at concentration camp...) and covered his rise to fame within the film industry. Arming us with a sturdy enough base on the man, off we went to explore the public scandal that was Polanski's "statutory rape" case IN DEPTH!

This well-paced and tightly edited film reminded me of a "rule of life" that I'm guilty of forgetting as much as the next flawed human being: more often than none, nothing should be taken at face value and rarely are occurrences black and white... they're gray! Slyly communicated via rare still photographs, black & white footage, clips of Polanski's various films and varied testimonials from the people that were involved in the case at the time (a journalist, the defense attorney, the prosecutor and quotes from the since-deceased judge), this cinematic probe dissected the "gray" areas to which I referred earlier and floored me as to the amount of BS there was behind this case. I mean, I didn't know the judge was a fame-seeker himself and had his own agenda as to Polanski! I was also unaware that the 13-year old in question was a Quaalude popper on her own time! And what about the US press? MONSTERS!

It was biting insight of the like that just kept engrossing me more and more as the clock ticked forward. Think of it like an onion being peeled off layer by layer till the core is revealed. Granted, I'm not sure if the documentary was fully objective here, since I did feel as though it was leaning more toward the notion that Polanski received a bum rap through all this. But with that said, maybe it was the FACTS that made me lean towards that conclusion. Like I said, not sure - you be the judge when you see the film for yourself!

Oddly enough the most powerful segment for me had nothing to do with the Gailey case; it was when Sharon's Tate murder was brought up. I felt like I was punched in the chest! The Polanski interview where he announced to the press the death of his wife coupled with rare photos of him at her funeral truly affected me. And when it was revealed how the US press came down on Polanski even then (somehow connecting Tate's with ROSEMARY'S BABY), I was outraged. Like I always say, any film that makes me feel anything has to be doing something right - and this biting slice of life was doing everything right!

Now that's not to say that I didn't have a handful of peeves with the movie. For example, Polanski should've been interviewed TODAY for this film. It would've jacked up the whole's impact to an all new level. I also could've done with a tad more variety in terms of the way the varied quotes from folks were communicated. The whole text on screen thing got a bit tiresome after a while. Lastly, why the heck weren't the names "Manson" or "Manson family" mentioned when Sharon's Tate's murder was addressed? Anyone seeing this who doesn't know who did it...won't get the whole story. I guess the filmmakers assumed that everybody knew who was responsible, but like I always say: assumption is the mother of all muck-ups.

As the film came to a close, I had an all new outlook on Polanski, the man and the sordid case while having gained more knowledge as to Polanski's odd relationship with the shameless press,  the inner workings of the (oh-so flawed) judicial system and the "push the buttons" techniques the media used to sell stories. So, you want to have the facts on Polanski and the "huge scandal" delivered to ya in a powerful, often arresting (loved the hard hitting use of the ROSEMARY'S BABY score here) and incisive manner? Then this documentary is for you! Recommended! -- Rating: 8/10

Source: JoBlo.com

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