Toronto Review: Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out
Toronto International Film Festival, TIFF Docs
Director Marina Zenovich recounts how she became a player in the story she spent years investigating.
TORONTO — A necessary follow up to her 2008 Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired that could hardly be expected to pack the punch of that doc, Marina Zenovich's Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out offers a summation of the auteur's recent legal travails but not a great deal more. Those with a strong interest in the controversy or the director will want to see it, but it contains nothing provocative enough to attract casual observers.
Zenovich provides her own narration, since one of the picture's themes is the role her earlier work played in the 2009 arrest of Polanski in Switzerland. It's ironic that a film meant to expose prosecutorial wrongdoing should goad L.A.'s district attorney into reviving the decades-old statutory rape case, but that appears to have happened; Zenovich's sympathetic depiction of Polanski here -- little generosity is shown toward the government's side -- surely arises partly from a sense of guilt.
In between its point-by-point account of Polanski's arrest and the ensuing months of wrangling in California courtrooms and via international diplomacy (the main issue being whether he had to be personally present in order to plead for his case to be dismissed), the film spends a good deal of time with both Samantha Geimer, the victim in the 1977 offense, and Geimer's mother Susan Gailey. Though the latter vividly recalls the shock of realizing she had trusted the wrong man with her 13 year-old daughter, both now wish the case could be put to rest. Geimer herself expresses frustration that so many find her choice to forgive him (for her own mental health, not his) insufficient.
Intrigued by the fact that Swiss officials, not Americans, initiated the arrest, and did so after having let him come and go for decades, Zenovich looks for reasons the famously neutral government might have stepped in. She finds one in the tangle over UBS, the Swiss bank being antagonized by the U.S. over tax evasion charges. Though the timing makes sense -- that the country, already wounded by the financial crisis, might try to distract attention from banking by proffering a famous fugitive -- Zenovich never gets an insider to say as much, an admission that might have echoed the dramatic revelations in her first film.
Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles prosecutors also refuse to participate in the film (assuming they were asked) -- as does former D.A. David Wells, who provided some of the most damning evidence in Wanted and Desired only to make shocking retractions when the doc attracted attention. Getting Wells in the hot seat would have been a coup for the film, but he -- like the filmmaker whose misdeeds started all this -- has chosen to let the story play out without his help.
Production Company: Partout, LLC., Films Distribution
Director: Marina Zenovich
Screenwriters: P. G. Morgan, Chris A. Peterson, Marina Zenovich
Producers: Lila Yacoub, Marina Zenovich
Executive producers: Steven Soderbergh, Randy Wooten, Michael Roban
Director of photography: Tanja Koop
Music: Mark degli Antoni
Editors: Chris A. Peterson, Scott J. Gill
Sales: Films Distrobution
PG, 88 minutes