France's growing pushback against Roman Polanski

The #MeToo movement has only recently and only modestly begun to take root here. In the most vivid case, unrelated to Polanski, the actress Adèle Hanael alleged this month that she was sexually abused for years as a child by the director Christophe Ruggia (He has denied all allegations). But the cultural and political background in France has begun to change. There is a mass movement afoot to call attention to domestic violence and femicides. The Macron government has been encouraging women to libérer la parole, or speak out against harassment, even after the statute of limitations for pressing charges has ended, although it has not made any changes to French legislation on the matter. The government spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye, has repeatedly weighed in on the new Polanski film. She said she personally wouldn’t go to see it, but that in the name of free expression, she opposed a boycott. “We live in a state of law,” she said in a meeting last week with the Anglo-American Press Association, adding that it was up to the police and the courts to do their work. Even though Polanski hadn’t faced legal action with any of the more recent allegations, there was something about the stories “that disturbs me,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine that any of these conversations would be happening had Monnier, who is now 62, not published her letter. She said she had broken her silence after four decades because she was deeply distressed by an interview Polanski had given to the French writer Pascal Bruckner. Bruckner compared Polanski to Dreyfus, saying the director is “a Jew who was hunted during the war and a filmmaker persecuted by the Stalinists in Poland.” Bruckner, whose novel Bitter Moon Polanski made into a film, asked Polanski how he would survive “the present day neo-feminist McCarthyism.” Polanski answered: “I must admit that I am familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film, and that has clearly inspired me.” The interview was included in press material for An Officer and a Spy when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August, where it took second prize.