“Great talent allows for great license.” Dan Akroyd, ( upon being confronted with the fact that the late John Belushi was a drug abuser of outlandish proportions prior to his death).
While much of Europe, and a good deal of the cinematic community worldwide, is attempting to turn Roman Polanski into Jean Valjean over his weekend arrest in Switzerland, perhaps it is time to look at one of my favorite issues, whether greatness in any form can be used to trump justice.
A long time ago, Roman Polanski admitted to having sex with a 13 year old girl. When it became apparent that he might have to do some jail time ,and find out for himself what it is like to be on the receiving end of non consensual sex, he skipped of from the United States to Paris where they have a more lenient attitude toward such things. There he has remained for thirty years, continuing to make outstanding films. For thirty years, the thirsty bloodhounds at the Department of Justice have been waiting for him to slip up and wander into a place where they could extradite him. Switzerland was such a place and after a routine document was filed and acknowledged by the Swiss under out treaty with them to be correct, Mr. Polanski was picked up and held.
This lead to the current brouhaha which when broken down is really an argument over two points.
1. If you can hide from the law for thirty years for a crime you have admitted to, should you be allowed to remain free ?
2. If you are a world renown film director (or athlete or astronaut or politician or actor,etc, etc) should you be exempt from punishment from the laws which protect 13 year old girls from sexual predatory behavior by adults because you are just so damn talented ?
Here we have the French, in the person of Mr. Jack Lang, the former French Cultural Minister, explaining to us that “Mr. Polanski is a great creator and artist”….”In Europe it would be unimaginable to punish someone in this situation.”
Now to be fair, the folks in Arkansas would have agreed with this up until a few years ago (although the couple would have had to have been married) so I’m not here to pass judgment on what would appear to me to be a singular perversion of modern sexual mores. Maybe there are all kinds of reasons why old film directors should be deflowering 13 year old in Europe. It is all somewhat arbitrary anyway. How old was the step daughter of American Director Woody Allen when he decided that “the heart wants what it wants” ? Right, the heart wanted it , or should I say IT . I don’t recall the girl’s age, but it was close enough to this situation to sicken many of us, leaving aside the putative incest.
But as I said, putting aside sex, should a great director get cut slack just because he is a great director ? If you think so, it is probably because you know that that’s how the world works anyway. If you think not, you are probably not going to burn in everlasting hell along with Roman Polanski (again, I’m trying not to be judgmental). Roman Polanski is a fugitive from justice, perhaps Victor Hugo would have found more sympathy for his position than I do. Perhaps he really is Jean Valjean and the American authorities are nothing but a collective version Javert. Or perhaps Mr. Polanski is really Paul Muni as James Allen in “Fugitive From a Chain Gang”, the 1932 American rip off of Hugo. Whatever. I will bet anyone that Roman is not going to serve time in an American prison. You see, the rich are different than you and I Mr. Hemingway, they are allowed to screw 13 year old girls.