Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir

Roman Polanski in The TenantLaurent Bouzereau’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir features the eponymous director in conversation with his longtime friend and producer, Andrew Braunsberg – the pair have known one another since 1964. With that kind of bare-bones conceptualizing it might not come as a surprise to learn that Bouzereau’s bread and butter as a director has been creating extras for DVD’s. Watching filmmakers discuss their work for five minutes, behind-the-scenes, can be entertaining – even illuminating. But an hour and a half of the stuff could try the patience. Fortunately for Bouzereau – and his viewers – Polanski is funny, insightful and eloquent when discussing a life few of us could fathom.

The discussion was filmed during Polanski’s house arrest in Gstaad, Switzerland, in 2009. The director was threatened with extradition to the U.S. to face his infamous sexual misconduct charges dating to 1977. We learn the clandestine details of Polanski’s arrest before he recounts his childhood, growing up in a Jewish ghetto in Nazi-occupied Krakow, Poland. Polanski’s mother was killed by the Nazis and the director was separated from his father who was sent to a work camp. His sister survived Auschwitz. His mother was pregnant when she was arrested during a raid and her death eerily prefigures the murder of Polasnki’s wife Sharon Tate and their unborn child by the Manson Family in 1969.

Polanski’s remembrances of the ghetto and of his time hiding in the Polish countryside are accompanied by scenes from his films – the director occasionally speaks to the scenes directly, pointing out where their subtexts and his own biography overlap. The film continues, juxtaposing events in Polanski’s life with the succession of hits and misses he created while navigating his early success in Europe, making the masterpieces Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby, and building a career outside of Hollywood while exiled in Europe.

Polanski’s lived an outrageously tragic life filled with violence and murder. He’s also reviled by many for his own crime. The film’s been criticized for Braunsberg’s softball interview and the contention that Memoir offers nothing that hasn’t already been covered in Polanski’s autobiography or in the determinedly detailed documentary Roman Polanski:Wanted and Desired.

Braunsberg’s over-familiarity does begin to wear, but perhaps that’s why Polanski – who is practiced at playing the bristly interviewee – is so relaxed here. Memoir isn’t a definitive study of the man or his work, but what it brings us is Polanski himself, on his own terms, telling his own story in his own words. Sure the film amounts to little more than a chat between two old friends, but what Memoir really delivers its viewers is a seat at the table for that conversation. I for one wouldn’t have missed it.

Here’s the trailer

The film debuted at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and it’s just been released to these digital streaming portals: iTunes, Amazon, XBox, Sony, Google / YouTube.

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JoeNolan

Joe Nolan was born under a bad sign on June 13th in Detroit, Michigan in the last Metal Year of the Dog. Polymath, provocateur, inter-media artist, his tell-tale signs have turned up in music, visual art, journalism, poetry, fiction, video and film. A double Gemini, his interests range from the pharmacology of phenomenology to fly fishing; from mysticism to mixed martial arts; from chaos science to chaos magick. Joe Nolan's Insomnia blog republishes to some of the most read counter-culture sites on the web and the Coincidence Control Network podcast which he hosts has been downloaded more than half-a-million times.He is recording his fourth CD in Nashville, Tennessee where he lives to the east of the Cumberland river on a little wooded lot dubbed Bohemian Walnut Grove.

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  • Wolfgang69

    Child Rapist Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir

    • Andrew

      I bet his later films would’ve been better had he spent the time in prison he deserved.

      • mannyfurious

        Agreed.