Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (2008)

Like the abortion issue, everyone has an opinion about Roman Polanski and his crime. They have opinions about the particulars; they have thoughts about why he committed this crime, and are often very quick to label him a pedophile, or rapist, or criminal. And much like the abortion issue, every thought is controversial and turns heated. What “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” does is try to look at the issue from all areas. It never completely deifies Polanski, and it never demonizes him as a sexual deviant. It instead asks you to think of why he fled the country, and for some that may be a hard pill to swallow.

Because many of us want to believe such an acclaimed and celebrated filmmaker is a sexual monster who thought he was bigger than the law. And perhaps in some form that’s true. But director Marina Zenovich also begs that we look at the reasons, the causes, and the utterly ridiculous undermining of American law not only by Polanski, but by the victim who, the director alludes, manipulated and seduced Polanski to garner some fame in her modeling career, and the judge who refused to uphold the constitution and grant a fair trial turning the entire series of hearings into an orchestrated show for the purposes of building a reputation and becoming a celebrity. Polanski is never the innocent victim, even when we spotlight the tragic murder of his wife Sharon Tate, and that’s what keeps “Wanted and Desired” a consistently tasteful look at the ballyhoo that followed Polanski all of his life, and the possible xenophobia that turned the press from friend to vicious enemy.

Zenovich strives for an impartial look at the circus that became the trial, and also dares to pose questions such as: Was Polanski punished for being a celebrity? Did Polanski really believe he’d done nothing wrong? And did his sensibilities and thoughts about what justified young interfere with his relations with the thirteen year old girl? Told through typed word and a skillful integration of clips from his films among the interviews, “Wanted and Desired” examines Polanski as a victim while also putting him in the hot seat for doing what he’d done, and Zenovich thoughtfully balances the formula out by leaving us constantly sympathizing for the man while also feeling great disregard for his smug defiance of international law by fleeing his trial, in spite of the inherently unfair manner in which it was being conducted.

Through all the examinations and dissections, Zenovich portrays Polanski as a perpetually cursed and misfortunate man with a great gift, who may always be hounded and punished for simply living his life by his own principles. It’s not an apology for him, and it’s not a two hour excuse. It’s merely an argument from both sides that leaves it up to you to come to a conclusion on who and why Roman Polanski is, in the end. And for that, it remains a truly volatile and fascinating film. People have already made up their minds in regards to Roman Polanski and where he stands as an individual. “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” seeks to explore both sides of the endless debate and asks all parties to consider every angle before labeling him as a pedophile or misunderstood genius.