ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED(Marina Zenovich). 99 minutes. Opens Friday (July 25) at the Royal. For times, see Indie & Rep Film. Rating: NNN
One week after the release of the Hunter S. Thompson documentary Gonzo, here's the story of another brilliant talent derailed in the 1970s by excess, indulgence and a certain blindness to his own limits.
Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired is an attempt to reconstruct the absurdities and indignities of the acclaimed director's 1977 rape trial, after a photography session with a 13-?year-?old model resulted in a tabloid frenzy of criminal charges.
While Marina Zenovich wasn't able to get Polanski in front of her camera - he's spent the last three decades living in Paris after fleeing the States on the eve of his sentencing - she has managed to speak to most of the surviving participants in the case, including prosecutor Roger Gunson, defence attorney Douglas Dalton and Polanski's accuser, Samantha Geimer, now in her mid-?40s.
The picture painted by these interviews, and those with numerous other interested parties, leaves the specifics of the crime deliberately murky. Instead, the doc concentrates on the unethical and borderline-illegal efforts of the trial judge, Laurence J. Rittenband, to orchestrate the case to prolong his own presence in the public eye.
Those looking for any kind of insight into Polanski's psyche, or into his films, will find very little here; beyond some powerful archival footage, he's almost completely absent from the proceedings. But what we do get is a measured, deliberate exploration of the unpleasant relationship between the American news media and the Los Angeles criminal justice system - which was pretty dirty 31 years ago, and isn't much better now.