Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2012): Laurent Bouzereau’s Documentary

Cannes Film Fest 2012 (Special Screening)—It’s too bad that whenever you mention the name of director Roman Polanski, people immediately think—and want to know more—about the controversy surrounded his 1977 sexual encounter with a minor, and his subsequent flight from the U.S. authorities.

Thus, it’s refreshing that Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary, “Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir,” tells the extraordinary story of Polanksi’s entire rich life, including the scandal.

World-premiering at the 2011 Zurich Film Fest, “Roman Polanski” is shown as a Special Screening at the prestigious 2012 Cannes Film Fest.

What an amazing life and career Polanski has had over the past seven decades (he was born in 1932). The docu begins with his childhood in the Poland’s Cracow ghetto and loss of his family during the Holocaust.

It then discusses Polanksi’s first films in Poland, his move to Paris, his career in Europe and the U.S., leading to several Oscar nominations (“Chinatown,” “Tess,”) and finally the Oscar itself, for directing “The Pianist.”

One of the docu’s most touching segments dissects the brutal murder of Polanski’s wife-actress, Sharon Tate, in 1968, by the Charles Manson camp, when she was eight-month-pregnant.

In dealing with the minor girl in 1977, Geimer, the docu does not add much beyond what was already established in Marina Zanovich’s significant 2008 docu, “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” Like Zanovich, Bouzereau suggests that Polanski did not get a fair trial and that the judge was “out to get him.”

Polanksi also feels there might have been a conspiracy, but he doesn’t dwell in depth with the incident or with its aftermath, which had a dramatic (and detrimental) effect on his career.

With the exception of “The Pianist,” most of the films that Polanski made in Europe are not on the same level as those he had directed in Hollywood.

If the docu can be charged with being too conventional—it follows in a straightforward chronological order the rich material—Polanski’s life and work—certainly is not.

Polanksi’s impressive body of work speaks for itself.
He was one of the few foreign directors, who, upon emigrating to California, understood what Hollywood could offer him and grabbed the opportunities to his advantage.

As a result, we are lucky to have a rich body of work that consists of so many good and commercial American pictures, including “Rosemary’s Baby,” ”The Tenant,” “Chinatown,” “Tess.”

The conversations, which amount to 20 hours or so, were recorded during Polanski’s stay in his Gstaad home, where he was under house arrest for several months after he was apprehended on his way to receive Career Achievement Award from the Zurich Film Fest in 2009.

The interviews are illustrated with excerpts from Polanski’s films, news footage, press clippings, and some exclusive photos, taken on and off the sets of his pictures.