CINEMA: The Two-Way Mirror Between Life And Art


SALON: I am not claiming that a work of art has nothing to do with the person who made it, since that’s a stupid idea, and I’m certainly not claiming that the work of art is somehow co-guilty of its creator’s crimes, since that’s an even stupider idea. (Wagner’s music will always be identified with fascism; it can’t be reduced to fascism.) I am certainly not speaking out in defense of Roman Polanski, who apparently did something that was both heinous and illegal, and should long ago have faced the consequences. I guess I’m saying that it’s hypothetically possible to learn something from a movie, and totally impossible to learn anything from the sordid private lives of celebrities.

Furthermore, I’m saying that Polanski’s most hysterical attackers, the ones who can’t decide whether to polanski_nicholson.jpggouge out his eyes before or after boiling him in oil, and his most tone-deaf defenders, the ones who wonder whether, y’know, it might not have been rape-rape, are responding to the same social truth identified in “Chinatown.” Terrible things happen in all sorts of ways and in all sorts of places — in Hollywood and Washington and at the mall and on Maple Street — to girls and boys and women and men, and all too often “the culprit survives” and the authorities do “as little as possible,” to use Jake’s final words in the movie.

Does it serve the cause of justice for Roman Polanski to come back and serve time? Jesus, I really don’t know. He did a very bad thing, but at this point he’s become a symbol, and that’s never good news. We can decide to “take him out back and shoot him,” in the edifying phrase of Cokie Roberts. But, seriously. Does focusing all this rage and resentment on one pervy old Polish movie director somehow make up for all the other times we’ve been cheated and lied to and robbed and abused and raped (metaphorically or otherwise) by people in power, and then had to stumble away down the street in stunned disbelief while some allegedly well-meaning person patted us on the shoulder and explained that there was nothing to be done, we didn’t understand, it was the way the world worked, we just had to suck it up and keep our heads down. Does it make up for the moment of godawful insight as his protagonist vanishes into the crowd at the end of his greatest film? “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” MORE

romanpolanskirs.jpgNEW YORK TIMES: A lawyer for Roman Polanski said on Sunday his client realized that some of the support he had received since his arrest had not been helpful to securing his release, Agence France-Presse reported. Adding that he was concerned for Mr. Polanski’s health, the lawyer, Hervé Temime, spoke to Agence France-Presse after visiting Mr. Polanski on Friday in a Swiss prison. He is being held for possible extradition to the United States more than three decades after fleeing sentencing on sex charges in 1978. In the interview Mr. Temime said Mr. Polanski was “very touched by the support he has received.” He added, “He also knows that some of it is counterproductive” but did not elaborate. Many filmmakers, actors and other public personalities have signed petitions seeking Mr. Polanski’s release. Mr. Temime said he found Mr. Polanski, 76, to be “very worn out.” MORE

[“Portrait Of Charles Manson” by JOE COLEMAN]

FIRST POST: A new photograph of Charles Manson, who along with other members of his so-called ‘family’ was convicted of killing Roman Polanski‘s actress wife Sharon Tate in a bloody rampage in Los Angeles in 1969, has been released. It was taken on Wednesday as part of a routine updating of files at the Corcoran State Prison in California, where Manson is serving a life sentence for conspiring to kill seven people, including Tate. It shows the once flowing-haired cult leader now, at 71, with a receding hairline, a thick gray beard and a fading swastika-shaped scar on his forehead. The release of the photo comes just manson_123747062498009700.jpgmonths before the 40th anniversary of the Manson killings in August. The slayings, Manson believed, would incite a race war that he believed had been prophesied in the Beatles’ song Helter Skelter. MORE

THE SUN: The isolated cabin in Death Valley where Charles Manson and his followers planned their murder sprees and where he was later arrested was gutted by a fire in May. And slowly but surely the people found guilty of murdering pregnant actress Sharon Tate and four others at her home in Benedict Canyon and a couple in Los Feliz in August of 1969 are fading away as well. Manson, now 74 and the mastermind behind the murders, is serving a life sentence at Corcoran State Prison, midway between Bakersfield and Fresno. Susan Atkins, a Manson follower who stabbed Tate over and over again as she pleaded for her life, died of brain cancer in September. Her fellow killers, Charles “Tex” Watson, Leslie Van Houten and Patricia Krenwinkel, remain behind bars. MORE

chinatown_jack_nicholson_1.jpgTHIS RECORDING: Jack Nicholson is Erectile Dysfunction. He always has been, in all his films. He is the walking cinematic representation of impotence. The complete embodiment of the concept of Flawed Masculinity insofar as I’ve come to understand it. Did you know that an obsolete definition for the word impotent is “incapable of self-restraint”? It pleases me more than I’d like to admit watching The Hot Pole hit the brick wall known as Andropause so hard. The man IS the lack of an erection. Which is why he’s so singularly obsessed with getting them onscreen. He finally got to whip out a huge black dildo in The Departed. You can sense Nicholson’s glee at finally being free to be a Dirty Old Man, to turn out exactly like his buddy Marlon Brando. Since About Schmidt, he’s become one of my favorite Jungian archetypes, the Man in a Flapping Open Bathrobe. MORE

ALSO: Dustin Hoffman has what we call Jewish Overtalking Syndrome: I’ve been doing movies since 1967. very_bad_things.jpgHave I been involved in movies that had scenes that made this exchange look like nothing? And did we hear stories of Jack Nicholson throwing a television set across the room trying to kill Roman Polanski in Chinatown? Did Bill Murray not pick up the producer who was running Universal and throw her into the lake on What About Bob?” The names keep coming: Gene Hackman, Mel Brooks, Robert Duvall. “We heard these things constantly. And shouldn’t that happen if it has to happen? Yes. […] I heard a rumor that the flop Very Bad Things, a movie Comedy Central rotated in a continuous loop during the nineties with 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag, was based on a true bit of Hollywood lore. The story being that some seventies film luminaries, presumably including Polanski, Nicholson, and I think Robert Evans, had a hooker overdose or something at their place and they buried her in the desert Gram Parsons style. MORE

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