Monday, July 12, 2010

Swiss Justice?

It seems that once again, fugitive director Roman Polanski has eluded justice. Swiss officials denied an extradition request because "it was not possible to exclude with the necessary certainty a fault in the US extraditionary request," according to The Guardian. Polanski is once again a free man.

While the Swiss have been quick to point out that their decision has no bearing on Polanski's guilt or innocence, it's hard to take them seriously when they won't do their part to give Polanski the day in court which he has spent most of his adult life pushing the snooze alarm on.

I suppose it is possible that the U.S. will now abandon their pursuit of Polanski, since they can say, "hey, we did our part, but the Europeans won't give him up," but I would be very surprised if they did. Even if they had no interest in saving face, prosecutors are human, and will probably take some measure of spiteful satisfaction in greatly restricting Polanski's travels for the remainder of his life. That said, however, it would be curious to see how emboldened he might be if they publicly claimed to be abandoning their pursuit in hopes of apprehending him during a future excursion. ("Hmm, apparently I've won a boat. Marvelous! Pack your bags, schatzi!")

I appreciate Polanski's desire to avoid potential incarceration, and his efforts to avoid extradition are only natural, if unfortunate and unwarranted. The Swiss are apparently unwilling to share complicity with the U.S. by simply turning him over, and have instead attempted to circumvent matters and using international legalities to put the ball into someone (anyone) else's court. My greatest disappointment will be in all the Hollywood glitterati and the others who now come forth expressing support for this 'tortured genius'.

I imagine Polanski will keep his travels limited to France for the immediate future, and so I don't expect we will hear about this matter in the press for quite some time, so I thought I would pre-emptively address some of the interview fodder which will undoubtedly crop up in the intervening time.

His wife was killed by the Mansons! Hasn't he suffered enough? (alt)
He was imprisoned during the Holocaust, where he was orphaned! Hasn't he suffered enough?

First of all, hands up if you want a justice system based on suffering. Yeah, that's about what I thought. Secondly, while factors like these might be factored into sentencing, they do not allow the transgressor to select their own punishment, which in this case amounts to half-assed house arrest practically anywhere on the planet that isn't the United States or Great Britain. Being a victim does not entitle you to victimize others, and I find this particular defense of Polanski's indefensible actions to be nothing short of reprehensible.

The judge backed out of a standing deal, why shouldn't Polanski have run?
Because he avoided a chance to have the entire matter cleared up. Since Polanski never returned to court after his evaluation period, we'll never know what might have transpired, and even if the judge could have been counted on to give an honest and accurate answer, he's dead now. Even if there were improprieties or inconsistencies in the way the case and sentencing were handled (and there is certainly evidence to suggest this), there are mechanisms in place to deal with them. After obtaining a very lenient arrangement due to plea bargain, Polanski fled at the first sign that things might be changing against his favour, and since then has done absolutely nothing to resolve the matter. His best response to a judge potentially breaking a written plea agreement is to leg it out of the country, pretend it never happened and start 'dating' 15 year-old Nastassja Kinski. For all his talk about putting this matter behind him, Polanski has made very little effort to do so, which is hardly surprising when you consider that he does not feel he did anything wrong. "I like young girls," he admits in the documentary Wanted and Desired. "I think most men do." Or perhaps more plainly spoken in his 1979 interview with Martin Amis: "If I had killed somebody, it wouldn't have had so much appeal to the press, you see? But… f—ing, you see, and the young girls. Judges want to f— young girls. Juries want to f— young girls. Everyone wants to f— young girls!"

Even the victim in the case wants the issue dropped! What about her wishes?
Regardless of the victim's wishes, capital-S Society, under its guise as The Law, has an obligation to prosecute crimes as serious as child molestation is; such an act cannot simply be allowed to fade away Douglas MacArthur style. And while you certainly don't want to prolong the suffering of the victim, her request would have been significantly more credible if she had made it prior to negotiating a cash settlement from Polanski in 1993.

As an individual, there is not a lot I can do about a situation like this, but I can continue to do what I have always done: as long as he lives, Polanski does not get one nickle of my money until he faces justice or the case is dropped. I didn't go see Ghost Writer, I still haven't seen The Pianist, and I won't even take Chinatown out from the library, let alone rent it from Blockbuster.

I have no delusions that Polanski is going to give a flying prepubescent fig about one less person opting out of seeing his movies, but it's what I can do so I am doing it. Furthermore, I am not being quiet about it. When people talk about how much cooler Adrien Brody is in Predators than he was in The Pianist, I will pipe right up with, "Oh, I don't actually watch Polanski's films. He's got a court date to sort out first."

This will sometimes prompt a discussion that one should 'judge the art, not the artist', and had Polanski stood up and taken his medicine, I would happily entertain this notion. It's not a question of quality; I just can't stomach a child rapist and fugitive making money off of the society he's wronged before paying his debt.

Other people will, knowingly or unknowingly, decide otherwise, and that's fine. Everyone has to make their own decision, but there is not a movie on earth I need to see so badly that I am willing to line Polanski's pocket to do it.

This is not to say that I feel morally superior to those who do choose to see his movies, or those who choose to act in them, for that matter. Sure, I'm disappointed that someone whose work I admire, like Martin Scorcese, would choose to be a Polanski apologist , but that's a person with a difference of opinion, not a fugitive. Like Malcolm Reynolds, I reserve any feelings of moral superiority I might harbour for those I actually am superior to.

Like unrepentant child rapists who flee justice.

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