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With: Douglas Dalton, Roger Gunson, Samantha Geimer, Lawrence Silver, David Wells, Jim Grodin, Mia Farrow
Written by: Joe Bini, P.G. Morgan, Marina Zenovich
Directed by: Marina Zenovich
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 99
Date: 01/18/2008

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Frantic Repulsion

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Roman Polanski is not only one of our great filmmakers, but also he has the most fascinating personal history. Marina Zenovich's new documentary manages to compress all this into a pretty standard, journalistic movie filled with research, factoids and talking heads. Today, nearly everyone knows all about Polanski, the murder of his actress wife Sharon Tate at the hands of the Charles Manson gang in 1969, and that he later fled the United States to avoid being arrested for the statutory rape of a 13 year-old girl. But the exact details are not clear, and try as it may Zenovich's film does not make them all that much clearer. Worse, though Polanski appears extensively in archive footage and striking photos, he did not directly participate. The film doesn't deny Polanski's crime, but it very clearly takes the director's side in this case, instead assigning the blame to the (now deceased) Judge Rittenband, who (according to the movie) deliberately manipulated the details of the case for the benefit of the media. The now grownup victim, Samantha Geimer bravely appears for a few comments, though Zenovich's film fails to mention until the end credits that she publicly forgave Polanski years ago. Despite all this trouble, however, I found myself occasionally enthralled, mainly due to Polanski's haunted presence coming through, even in the form of an absent ghost. (One lawyer, while working on the case, went to a Polanski film retrospective and concluded that Polanski had an obsession with terrible events taking place in or over water; this matches Polanski's "crime," which took place in a Jacuzzi.) The Roxie Cinema in San Francisco opens the movie today.

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