TV

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

In Wanted and Desired, Roman Polanski's liability is framed by that of the police, the judge, and the press especially, the hysteria that twisted the case at every turn.

Roman Polanski

Airtime: Monday, 9pm ET
Cast: Andrew Braunsberg, Philip Vannatter, Richard Brenneman, Richard Brenneman, Roger Gunson, Samantha Gailey Geimer
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Wanted and Desired
Network: HBO
US release date: 2008-06-09
Website
Trailer
Amazon
I think he has a dark side, a sad side, a veiled side. Given his childhood, he has a relationship to life and death he can't talk about. He has a strong vision of death and sadness inside him, but since he has such energy, such working power, such desire to do extraordinary things, he prevails.

-- Pierre-Andre Boutang

"He probably thought, 'If I talk and talk, I can probably talk my way out of this thing.'" This assessment by David Wells, Los Assistant District Attorney in 1977, typifies efforts to summarize or explain Roman Polanski throughout Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. None of the interviewees in Marina Zenovich's fascinating documentary manages to make sense of the famous filmmaker's behavior or apparent thinking. But they all have impressions, born of their interactions with him, so long ago. The film uses Polanski's elusiveness -- he has lived in France since February, 1978, when he fled the U.S., rather than be sentenced in California -- as both narrative premise and central metaphor. He is both "wanted and desired," the movie proposes, but never possessed.

Certainly, Polanski's life story is wracked by trauma and misfortune. "He didn't have the blueprint for life that so many people had," says Mia Farrow. Indeed, as Santa Monica Evening Outlook reporter Richard Brenneman reminds you, Polanski survived the Nazis in Poland: "He was a tragic, brilliant, historic figure, this man who had survived the Holocaust, who had survived the gassing of his mother." In the face of such adversity, it seemed a miracle that he went on to artistic and professional success, praised by critics and turning profits with Rosemary's Baby (1968), which Farrow remembers as "a happy time for all of us." To illustrate, Wanted and Desired includes both on-set footage of Farrow dancing and giving giddy good fun, as well as harrowing clips from the film, such as Rosemary's rape by the devil ("This is no dream!"). "And then," Farrow says, "everything just collapsed."

The collapse was initiated by the 1969 murder of Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate and four friends by Charles Manson's followers. Airing 9 June on HBO before it opens in U.S. theaters, Wanted and Desired underlines the abuse Polanski suffered in the U.S. press following the killings, via insinuations that his artistic interests, including the violence in Knife in the Water and Dance of the Vampires, as well as the satanic rituals in Rosemary's Baby, revealed his capacity for violence in real life. Repeatedly, the documentary challenges lazy reliance on the idea that art somehow reveals the maker's psyche, however unconsciously or inadvertently. Brenneman articulates what he sees as Polanski's impossible position, that even after he "had come here and developed his own voice, had maintained his integrity against the power of the Hollywood machine, and [yet] the American press tended to look at him as this malignant twisted dwarf with this dark vision."

The murders certainly exacerbated this impression, and the rape seemed to confirm his lack of moral compass. Even as Polanski insisted the victim consented, the sensational circumstances argued against his professed innocence. Not only did his European sensibility mark him as "alien" (he didn't see sex with "young girls" as criminal, and had had a previous relationship with 15-year-old Nastassja Kinski), but his intentions seemed "obvious" (he brought the victim to Jack Nicholson's house to take photos for Vogue Hommes magazine, where they indulged in champagne, Quaaludes, and a Jacuzzi).

But Wanted and Desired is less interested in the crime (no matter what Polanski believed, in the U.S. a 13-year-old cannot "consent" to sex) than in the treatment of Polanski by the U.S. press and legal system. The former is represented in a repeated image, Polanski entering or leaving the Los Angeles courthouse, thronged by reporters, looking small and buffeted, his double-breasted suit dapper and his haircut fashionably shaggy. The ugliness of these images is underscored by Polanski's answer to a journalist's query, "In general, I despise the press tremendously for its inaccuracy, for its irresponsibility, for its often even deliberate cruelty, and all of this is for lucrative purposes."

The legal system is embodied by Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, who had presided over Priscilla's divorce from Elvis and a Marlon Brando paternity suit. According to Brenneman (the film's representative of sensitive, self-aware reporting), Rittenband was "interested in handling celebrity cases." Even more to the point, the reporter observes, this precursor to Lance Ito "wanted to shape the way the press covered him." His legacy is reshaped here, through interviews with defense attorney Douglas Dalton and prosecutor Roger Gunson (at the time a "37-year-old very straight-thinking Mormon"), both looking back on the case with dismay, agreed that the judge was untrustworthy and determined, at last, to sentence Polanski illegally.

The documentary shapes its story elegantly, with these present day interviews as well as archival photos and footage (shots of the judge on the bench, a clip of Polanski in near tears as he confronts a crowd of reporters follow his wife's death ("The last few years I spent with her were the only time of true happiness in my life"). An interview with the victim, Samantha Gailey Geimer, now 44 and a mother of three living in Hawaii, reveals that she also felt abused by the system. "All that stuff was so traumatic," she says, "I never really had a chance to worry about what happened that night with him." The sensational case was increasingly oppressive and chaotic, as classmates taunted or exploited her by taking photos at school ("The worst part was, no one believed me") and police interviewers pressed her for information. As she remembers, "You can't stop it once it starts, you know. I just went in my room pretty much and just turned it off."

Wanted and Desired doesn’t suggest at any point that Polanski is not responsible for what he's done, or that he was reckless regarding consequences -- for Samantha even more than for himself. But his liability is framed by that of the police, the judge, and the press especially, the hysteria that twisted the case at every turn. "It's too easy and clichéd to connect your work and your life in such a direct manner," Polanski tells an interviewer in the first few moments of the documentary. And yet, friends and observers persist, throughout Wanted and Desired, as if wanting to comprehend him through the images that are available.

Such desire is endemic to contemporary celebrity culture, nut this deft documentary reveals the expansion of this complicated relationship among public, press, and stardom. It explores legal corruptions and the media's sense of entitlement and presumption of access, as well as the inclination to make up stories when such access remains elusive. Polanski's story, the film argues, is about sensationalism, self-interest, and competing interests, multiple players talking and talking, fundamentally incapable of finding precise or stable truths.

8

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less
Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

Next Page
Related Articles Around the Web
Film

Subverting the Romcom: Mercedes Grower on Creating 'Brakes'

Noel Fielding (Daniel) and Mercedes Grower (Layla) (courtesy Bulldog Film Distribution)

Brakes plunges straight into the brutal and absurd endings of the relationships of nine couples before travelling back in time to discover the moments of those first sparks of love.

The improvised dark comedy Brakes (2017), a self-described "anti-romcom", is the debut feature of comedienne and writer, director and actress Mercedes Grower. Awarded production completion funding from the BFI Film Fund, Grower now finds herself looking to the future as she develops her second feature film, alongside working with Laura Michalchyshyn from Sundance TV and Wren Arthur from Olive productions on her sitcom, Sailor.

Keep reading... Show less

People aren't cheering Supergirl on here. They're not thanking her for her heroism, or even stopping to take a selfie.

It's rare for any hero who isn't Superman to gain the kind of credibility that grants them the implicitly, unflinching trust of the public. In fact, even Superman struggles to maintain that credibility and he's Superman. If the ultimate paragon of heroes struggles with maintaining the trust of the public, then what hope does any hero have?

Keep reading... Show less

The Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop artist MAJO wraps brand new holiday music for us to enjoy in a bow.

It's that time of year yet again, and with Christmastime comes Christmas tunes. Amongst the countless new covers of holiday classics that will be flooding streaming apps throughout the season from some of our favorite artists, it's always especially heartening to see some original writing flowing in. Such is the gift that Paraguay-born, Brooklyn-based indie pop songwriter MAJO is bringing us this year.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image