Growing up in suburban Los Angeles, I knew Roman Polanski as a celebrity long before I knew his work as a film director. The murder of his wife by the Manson Family in 1969 and his controversial rape case in 1977 were well covered in the media, and I formed strong negative opinions about him, especially after he fled the US in 1978.

Still, I'd heard such interesting things about Marina Zenovich's doc Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired -- including Erik Davis' excellent, measured review from Sundance -- that I made sure to tune in when it premiered on HBO on Monday night after an extremely-limited theatrical qualifying run in New York and Los Angeles.

Before the broadcast, Slate reported that HBO changed the ending after Los Angeles Superior Courts officials complained. The Los Angeles Times published a similar story on Tuesday. Erik described what he saw at Sundance: "Perhaps the most fascinating fact (and this was something I did not know) came in the reveal that, when a new judge was assigned to the case in 1997, he agreed to throw out the charges if Polanski were to return to the States -- on one condition: that the hearing be televised. Because of that, Polanski decided against coming back."

The officials claimed the condition that the case be televised was a fabrication. Not so, according to the attorneys involved: both the prosecution and defense lawyers say the documentary was correct: "It is our shared view that Monday's false and reprehensible statement by the Los Angeles Superior Court continues their inappropriate handling of the Polanski case." More coverage can be found at LA Observed; Anne Thompson at Variety has an excellent roundup.

Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired may not change your mind about Polanski as a person, but it is a fascinating look inside the criminal justice system. ThinkFilm is planning a theatrical release, starting in New York on July 11, no doubt with a DVD release down the road.
categories Movies, Cinematical