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Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired

Film Review by Dean Duncan May 21, 2015

At first this looks like rubbernecking, an unpleasant laying out of the dispiriting, disgusting details of this infamous incident of statutory rape, and seemingly for no other reason than to appeal to prurient interest. So Polanski is guilty. How is this fact, or what these filmmakers are doing about it, going to help anyone?

Fortunately the film does move on, somewhat. Through effective selections from Polanski’s pretty amazing oeuvre, through the use of some fabulous stock footage—so evocative of swingin’ times, and of the private life—and sorrows!—within them—Wanted and Desired ultimately covers a lot of good ground. Awful hardship, remarkable rising above, dire hedonism with humanity around the margins, or even at the core. Additionally the film’s condemnation of media savagery, though it may not be original, is pretty justified, even to the point of righteousness. He’s guilty, but he is also much more than just his crime, especially when you consider the grotesque ways that the judiciary apparatus attended thereto.

There’s the rub. Maybe Wanted and Desired works best as a procedural. The legal stuff is pretty great. Those two attorneys come off awfully well. So does the poor, brave, articulate victim of the original crime. It is striking, even inspiring to see how she has chosen to be a victim no longer. Punished by patriarchy—in this context the details are no longer just prurient, and though the lawyers look good, the process sure falls short. This is instructive, and very useful to the viewer. In other words, this is no longer just prurience.

That judge! As observed, Polanski was guilty, but that’s not why he ran. His last question to that awful interviewer really registers. After all I’ve been and all I’ve done, is this really the only thing that interests you, the only thing you have to talk about? By this point Wanted and Desired  has become so much more than just merely prurient. This is so important to remember as we judge the works and the lives of the erring!