ROMAN POLANSKI: A FILM MEMOIR
Conversations between Roman Polanski and Andrew
Braunsberg tell the story of Polanski's life, beginning with his
childhood in the Cracow ghetto, his first films in Poland, the
move to Paris, his career in Europe and America, crowned with an
Oscar for The Pianist, the tragedy of the murder of his pregnant
wife Sharon Tate in Los Angeles, the controversy surrounding his
US arrest in 1977, through to his work and life today in France
with his wife Emmanuelle Seigner. The conversations were recorded
in his home in Gstaad, Switzerland where he was under house
arrest for several months after he was apprehended on his way to
the Zurich Film Festival in 2009.
Review by Louise Keller:
He is wanted in one part of
the world and desired in another. Such is the life of filmmaker
Roman Polanski, who is as well-known for his personal life as his
professional. Although the sensational facts of Polanski's
personal life - as are those of his successful film career - are
a matter of record, there is something exquisitely personal about
this documentary in which he tells his story in conversation with
his friend of over 40 years, producer Andrew Braunsberg. Polanski
tells it in his own words - from his war-torn childhood in his
native Poland, the shocking murder of his pregnant actress wife,
Sharon Tate in America, his guilty plea to the rape of an
underage girl and his life running from the legal chains that
still tie him to the United States.
Ultimately it is the
intimate nature of 'getting to know' Polanski that makes this
fascinating documentary bristle with veracity. We get a sense of
the man, the indelible impact of his childhood, his responses to
the major events in his life. Credited for directing 278 films
(and producing over 300), director Laurent Bouzereau has made a
simple film in which to showcase its extraordinary subject.
Archive footage, photographs, press clippings and excerpts from
some of Polanski's 34 films are intercut throughout; most of the
interview takes place in Switzerland during his 2009 period of
There are many moving moments that come to
light as the hairpin bends of Polanski's life are turned, yet for
me, the most potent are those in which he is taken back to his
childhood, reliving the loss of a child facing an emotional void.
The elements of Polanski's 2002 Oscar-winning film The Pianist
are those that bond him with his childhood, many situations
plucked from his own experiences. As he admits, if there was only
one film that could grace his grave, this is the one.
There are surprises too - that Polanski was almost
illiterate, having been deprived of a normal schooling due to the
war and learnt the alphabet from his father's typewriter. Reading
was practised while watching subtitled movies. The way Polanski
got into the film industry is interesting too, having been
rejected from three acting schools.
Polanski's life is
punctuated by great highs and lows. He calls his marriage to Tate
the most idyllic time of his life; yet it was during this period
that life presented him with its greatest tragedy. A self-
confessed optimist, Polanski talks about the difficulty he faced
when finally allowing himself to become a father - with his
beautiful French actress wife of 25 years, Emmanuelle Seigner.
The intimate nature of every revelation - large and small
- makes this film a personal triumph and a fascinating one.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A fine example of how
sympathetic interviewing techniques can result in a probing
interview that carries insights and emotion, this friendly
conversation between longtime colleagues and friends Polanski and
Braunsberg endures and succeeds for its simplicity and innocence.
There is no hidden or obvious agenda other than to elicit
highlights of a life lived in public, and one that's filled with
The first question we might ponder
before seeing this film is how will such a friendly conversation
deal with the complicated and unresolved issue hanging over
Polanski from over three decades ago, when in an American court
he pleaded guilty to sex with a minor. It turns out that it deals
with it very effectively, and if you are heavily biased against
Polanski on this matter, you cannot fail to register the fact
that his story has been badly misrepresented by the media. So
much so that nothing he can do will deliver justice, either to
him or to the young woman - who in her maturity tells CNN's Larry
King how much less damage Polanski has done to her than the
combination of the media and the courts.
across as a product of war-torn East European culture with a
personality that has been forged by his experiences during the
war as a kid, and later as a talented filmmaker tossed about on
the back of fate as most people are. His personal low points are
balanced by highs, including his happy marriage to French actress
Emmanuelle Seigner and his children.
There are memories
that trigger tears and sadness, and overall, there is an air of
melancholy about Polanski, but he isn't by any means dour. His
old friend Andrew Braunsberg traces his life almost like a
narrator, stopping to draw out more detail and more emotion.
The simple setting, at a table in Polanski's Gstaad chalet
with both men in casual shirts and a no-fuss shoot with two
cameras, adds to the feeling of being present at a conversation
between friends, over some happy and not so happy moments.
Generously illustrated with clips and stills, the film is a low
key, unobtrusive exploration of someone the world doesn't really
know or understand, despite his high profile as an acclaimed
filmmaker. It seems evident that his character has been
disfigured and his life deformed not by the atrocities of the
Nazis but by the inhumanity and injustice of an American judge.
Judge for yourself.
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ROMAN POLANSKI: A FILM MEMOIR (M)
CAST: Documentary featuring Roman Polanski and Andrew Braunsberg
PRODUCER: Luca Barbareschi, Andrew Braunsberg, Christoph Fisser, Henning Molfenter, Charlie Woebken
DIRECTOR: Laurent Bouzereau
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Pawel Edelman
EDITOR: Jeff Pickett
MUSIC: Alexandre Desplat
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Regency Film Distribution
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 21, 2013
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.