Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (DVD Review)21 Dec, 2008 By: Billy Gil
Prebook 12/27/08; Street 1/27/09
Box Office $0.06 million
While it may not change minds about the culpability in the case at hand, Marina Zenovich’s documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired is a shocking — and entertaining — look into director Polanski’s admitted sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl, and the trial and media flare-up that followed.
Polanski, the brilliant hand behind classics such as Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and an Academy Award-winning turn directing The Pianist, was charged in 1977 with several counts against minor Samantha Gailey (now Geimer), including rape by use of drugs. This came eight years after the murder of his wife, actress Sharon Tate, and four others by the Manson Family.
Zenovich’s film ably explores the complex case, essentially alleging that egotistical Judge Lawrence J. Rittenbaum made deals with litigators in order to orchestrate media coverage in his favor, often falling into gray, and in at least one instance illegal, territory.
However, Zenovich’s even-handed film also makes no bones about what happened; far from it, through the use of incredible footage, numerous interviews, montage work and Mark degli Antoni’s haunting soundtrack, she gives ample voice to all parties involved and in doing so attributes sympathies where appropriate. Polanski is seen as both the troubled genius and lascivious charmer he is, though the treatment of his case, as seen in the film, is abominable.
However, Zenovich’s film is neither preachy nor obtuse. It carries the rare ability to enlighten viewers and keep them riveted as it seamlessly stitches together one long, contentious history. This is essential viewing for any documentary fan.
It should be noted as well that Polanski appealed to have the remaining charges against him dropped after the film’s release, noting the misconduct in the trial. He awaits in self-imposed exile in Europe.