The Venice Film Festival just wrapped up in Palazzo del Cinema, Lido, Italy, and the big winners were all smiles. This is apparently considered something of a big deal because winners of this festival frequently go on to win at the Oscars, as was the case with The Shape of Water. The top prize (the Golden Lion award) went to a Joaquin Phoenix film called Joker. (This one sounds pretty good and I might even go see it.)
That wasn’t the big news for me, however. The second-place winner, given the Grand Jury Prize, was a film called An Officer and a Spy. This is only notable because it was directed by notorious convicted child rapist and pedophile Roman Polanski.
Yet more surprising, given Martel’s disparaging remarks about its director at the opening press conference, was the awarding of the grand jury prize to Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy.
The film, which stars Jean Dujardin and Louis Garell, is based on Robert Harris’s novel about the Dreyfus affair in 1895 France. Yet despite the continued controversy surrounding its director, that film also met with highly positive reviews.
Polanski did not travel to the festival to promote the drama; nor did he attend the closing night ceremony to pick up his prize.
It’s not hard to imagine why Polanski didn’t go to Italy to either promote his film or pick up his trophy. The Italians have been on pretty close terms with the United States for the past couple of years and it’s not out of the question that they might have cooperated with American law enforcement and helped us put a bag over Polanski’s head, rush him to an airport and bring him back to California to face justice.
There’s still an outstanding warrant out for Polanski’s arrest, but the countries where he tends to hide out have thus far refused to extradite him. All of this stems from his conviction on charges of drugging, raping and sodomizing a thirteen-year-old child decades ago.
And yet the jurors a the Venice Film Festival still found him to be acceptable enough to receive a major film award. How does that even work? I don’t care if the damn movie was better than Casa Blanca. Surely there comes a point where someone is so odious and unacceptable to civil society that you stop accepting his work for such galas. And if anyone qualifies for that category, it’s surely Polanski.
Even more amazing is the fact that all of this happened after Argentinian director Lucretia Martel’s initial statements. She was tapped to lead the jury this year and she very publicly criticized the director of the festival over gender quotas. There were only two films directed by women in the top 21 entries and she argued in favor of a mandatory 50-50 split along gender lines.
But if Martel is so concerned about proper treatment of women, why did she too agree that Polanski’s film should have been included?
What we’re seeing here is the same shameful behavior that characterizes the film industry on both sides of the Atlantic. Hollywood was disgracefully slow to reject the monstrous Polanski. (He wasn’t ejected from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences until 2018 when the #MeToo chickens came home to roost in Los Angeles.) And the European movie elites clearly see the subject the same way. So long as you’re a member of the club, most of them are willing to look the other way, even if you have been convicted of one of the most horrific crimes against children imaginable.