Movie news and stuff

Where to begin…

* Could the ultimate case of movie development hell finally be unraveling? We’re told that Ewan McGregor will star in Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.”

* Lionsgate may be on the block with all kinds of possible ramifications for hardworking and often underpaid workers there. However, just in case you were worried, they’ve got $16 million set aside for five executive golden parachutes if Carl Icahn’s attempt is successful. Whew!

* Anne Thompson discusses the people who didn’t show up at Cannes.  Somehow, she overlooked my absence.

* One of the people who isn’t showing up is living cinema legend/bad boy Jean-Luc Godard, who is citing the chaos in Greece as his reason. Yeah, I have only the vaguest possible idea what he means by that myself. Meanwhile, the Playlist’s Christopher Bell reviews a new documentary about the severed friendship between Godard and Francois Truffuat, who were respectively the Rolling Stones and the Beatles of midcentury French New Wave cinema and, alas, finds it lacking.

francois-truffaut-strike

* Marina Zenovich, the woman whose documentary many credit/blame with restarting the Roman Polanski mess — and, yes, that’s the “evil profligate dwarf” himself next to Godard, Truffaut as well as Claude Lelouche and Louis Malle in the picture above — will next be doing the film version of Mark Harris’s widely acclaimed book, Pictures at a Revolution, which looks at the remarkable five best picture nominees from 1968.

* Speaking of Polanski, Oy vey, Woody. (Via FilmDrunk whose headline repeats the obvious, but still hilarious, joke here.)

* Armando Iannucci, co-writer and director of the outstanding comedy about tragedy, “In the Loop,” has a new film with a preposition and a noun in the title set up.

* Cameron Crowe, who was on an amazing run of movies like “Say Anything” and “Almost Famous” until suddenly, he wasn’t, is getting back on the horse with a fact-based tale that involves all kinds of animals, possibly including horses. It does sound like a heck of a story.

* Nikki Finke thinks James Robinson should pay up before showing his face at Cannes.

It’s late. I’m tired and I want my turkey burger and an Old Fashioned. More to come later.

  

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Roman Polanski can remain silent no longer!

Pola600

This week’s box office breakdown is coming up in just a bit, but first we have a bit of late breaking news…

Just when you thought it was safe to go into an Internet comment thread, Roman Polanski has issued a rather dramatic statement using the refrain, “I can remain silent no longer!” In it, he basically recapitulates the argument made in “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” and, ironically, argues that the documentary is the reason his case has taken on a second wind very late in the game. Also, he tacitly admits that he committed a crime on that ill-starred night in 1977, and refers to its victim as “the victim.” Not, of course, that that changes anything, nor am I sure this is anything really new, but it’s interesting. You can read the complete text of his statement here on a New York Times pdf, via Anne Thompson.

I’ve been guilty of quibbling over what I see as the often overheated rhetoric and assumptions made about certain aspects of this case, here and elsewhere. I’d also probably write my review of the highly watchable but perhaps not so unassailable Marina Zenovich documentary which Polanski believes restarted the whole affair, a bit differently now than I did back when I wrote it. Still, I think three things are safe to say: 1. Polanski committed a very serious crime on the night in question — no matter how I might quibble over the wording and what precisely has been legally proven and not, there is no way that giving drugs to and then having sex with a thirteen year-old is not, at the very least, an act of child molestation; 2. Polanski is a great film-maker; 3. 1 and 2 have nothing to do with each other.

Having said that, I think Anne Thompson is right. Polanski did a terrible thing and has admitted as much, but is hardly a danger to anyone at this point and, given that he has now been incarcerated twice, there really should be, as she says, “a way to fix this.” You can and should make a case that wealthy people like Polanski should not be given special treatment, but I’m not convinced that a poor man on a first-offense charge would necessarily have received harsher treatment on the same charge, under similar circumstances, at the same point in time.

Ewan McGregor in Of course, me and Thompson are both moved by a rather selfish desire of our own. “The Ghost Writer” was a first-rate throwback to a caliber of straightforward craftsmanship we rarely see these days. I know that should have no bearing on how this is all worked out in the end but, still, I’d like more, if that’s possible.

  

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Crime and punishment, Hollywood style

I’m going to defer this weekend’s box office preview for the morning because we have several fairly major breaking developments that probably shouldn’t wait. Guess who figures in the first item…

* In the case that director Marina Zenovich built in “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” — that the world-class director was both a criminal perpetrator and victim of legal malfeasance — one damning element was an interview with a former D.A. who was not supposed to have been involved in the case. As recounted by the L.A. Times’s Jack Leonard, David Wells said that he suggested to Judge Lawrence Rittenband that he could effectively sentence Polanski to jail time by ordering the accused director to undergo “diagnostic testing” in Chino State Prison, overruling the determination of a probation officer.

As described in the documentary this is, to say the least, outside the bounds of what is permitted in a situation like this. (In the context of the film it comes off as almost a petty vendetta.) Now, Wells claims that he lied. I’m not sure how to take that except that it’s never a good situation to be in when something you said may get you into trouble, and you suddenly claim that you were lying. At that point, you’re an admitted liar, the only question remaining is a matter of timing.

Roman Polanski, Douglas Dalton...and Neil Diamond?

At the same time, my own position on this case could be changing to the point where I may disagree with some of what I wrote in my review of the Zenovich film. I commend you to two extremely thoughtful posts on the matter: one by Anne Thompson (who also gets a huge h/t for this item) and the other by Karina Longworth. Karina’s take on the film was quite different from mine, but all of her points are at least valid and some may well be a lot more than that.

* A horrifying story I’d forgot all about reemerged today, as if to coincide with the Polanski matter. Roger Avary, who shared story credit and an Oscar with Quentin Tarantino on “Pulp Fiction,” co-wrote the screenplay for “Beowulf, and wrote and directed 1993’s “Killing Zoe” and the 2002 Bret Easton Ellis adaptation, “The Rules of Attraction” and also used to have a pretty lively blog, has been sentenced to a year in prison for gross vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

Although Avary previously argued he was not drunk at the time of the accident which killed one friend and severely injured another, his blood alcohol level was reportedly above the legal limit. (No stories I can find say by how much, though legally and morally, I’m not sure if it matters.) He was also reportedly driving over 100 miles per hour. I wouldn’t want to live with what he must have on his conscience. Use a designated driver, wait several hours, if need be, until you are completely sober, take a cab, drink at home, or don’t drink at all.

* On a vastly lighter note, Nikki Finke broke the news today that cinephile-bane Michael Bay will be back at the helm for “Transformers III” with a presumably chastened Megan Fox. In this case, the crime will be on the screen and the punishment will be endured by critics.

* Also another “toldja!” from the mighty Finke: Leo the MGM lion may be a shadow of his former, but he will live to roar another day.

  

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Roman Polanski arrested in Switzerland

Roman Polanski in 1978

I’ll be getting to the weekend box office fairly soon but we have some breaking news today. Kind of a bombshell, actually.

As if to fill the void left by the conclusion of the Phil Specter case, a long-running Hollywood legal drama of some real significance has reemerged this morning and is almost certain to be filling the gossip and news pages for some time. As I write this, arguably one of one of the world’s five or so greatest living directors, whose resume includes “Chinatown,” “Rosemary’s Baby,” 2002’s “The Pianist” and the psychological horror classics “Repulsion” and “The Tenant,” is under arrest at age 76 and may be extradited back to L.A. county. This one could get messy and makes yet another painful and extraordinary chapter in the life of a director and occasional actor who escaped the Holocaust as a child, became an internationally famous filmmaker during the sixties, lost his pregnant actress wife in one of the most brutal murder rampages in U.S. history, and then nearly lost everything else over a inexcusable drunken encounter nearly a decade later.

Younger readers may not be aware how, in 1978, 45 year-old director Roman Polanski was arrested after having sex and sharing champagne and part of a Quaalude — a tranquilizer and de riguer party drug of the time — with 13 year-old Samantha Geimer. The victim’s name has only become public knowledge in recent years when, now middle-aged, she has come out publicly to forgive Polanski and call for a conclusion to the extremely muddy and muddled case which, however you come down on it, has more sides to it than you are likely aware of.

Indeed, though you may be hearing now end of moral grandstanding this week, this is no simple case. Even as someone who literally grew up with the matter and with Polanski’s career, I really knew very little about it before seeing and reviewing Marina Zenovich’s outstanding film about the matter: “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.” As Zenovich said in the film’s commentary, Polanski was both a perpetrator and a victim of a publicity hungry judge who used to case for his own ends and drew out the case needlessly. The real heroes of her film were, ironically, both the prosecutor and the defense attorneys in the case. Yes, Virginia, there may be two honest lawyers in greater Los Angeles.

Anyhow, there are any number of questions at this point, including how did Polanski’s lawyers not know what the Swiss authorities might do? (Polanski has been able to live peacefully in France because the U.S.-France extradition treaty does not cover his particular crime and he is highly regarded there. He has carefully avoided being seen in countries such as England where the laws are different.) Nikki Finke calls it a double-cross.

This case is huge and has already been condemned by French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand who is in communication with President Nicolas Sarkozy. No doubt, even as we speak poor Robert Gibbs is probably trying to figure what President Obama’s answer should be when he’s asked about it. Maybe he can use the whole “ongoing legal matter” construction to avoid it. That’s what I’d try to do.

Whatever happens, we certainly won’t be avoiding the case here. Stay tuned.

  

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