A life marked by hor­ror and scan­dal

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

Like his own films, the life of Os­car-win­ning di­rec­tor Ro­man Polan­ski has been haunted by hor­ror, vi­o­lence and scan­dal, turn­ing him into one of the world's most vis­i­ble fugi­tives from jus­tice. In the lat­est twist to a child sex case dat­ing back nearly four decades, Poland's Supreme Court yes­ter­day re­jected a bid to ex­tra­dite the 83-year-old Pol­ish-French film­maker to the United States.

Polan­ski pleaded guilty in 1977 to un­law­ful sex with a 13year-old girl in Hol­ly­wood, but fled the US be­fore sen­tenc­ing. His work has earned ap­plause from crit­ics and au­di­ences alike, win­ning eight Academy Awards on 27 nominations. But his ad­mis­sion that he had un­law­ful sex with 13-year-old Sa­man­tha Gai­ley af­ter ply­ing her with al­co­hol and pills, and his sub­se­quent flight from jus­tice, fu­elled a tor­rent of dis­gusted crit­i­cism. Polan­ski has since been en­gaged in a decades-long cat-and­mouse game with US of­fi­cials seek­ing his ex­tra­di­tion for trial, be­fore a global au­di­ence split between con­tin­u­ing out­rage and for­give­ness for his acts. When Poland's Supreme Court dis­missed the ap­peal yes­ter­day, defini­tively end­ing the na­tion's part in the case, Polan­ski's lawyer Jerzy Sta­chow­icz told re­porters: "We hope one day it will be over in the United States."

Nazi Poland and tragedy in LA

Polan­ski was born in Paris in 1933 to Pol­ish Jewish par­ents, who later brought the fam­ily back to their na­tive coun­try. He was eight when the Nazis ar­rested his par­ents in Krakow's Jewish ghetto send­ing them to con­cen­tra­tion camps from which his mother never re­turned. He fled the ghetto and roamed the coun­try­side, try­ing to sur­vive, helped by Catholic Pol­ish fam­i­lies, in a coun­try oc­cu­pied by Ger­man troops. The ex­pe­ri­ence lent a grip­ping au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal au­then­tic­ity to his 2002 movie "The Pi­anist", the tale of a young Jewish man try­ing to evade the Nazis in oc­cu­pied War­saw.

His youth­ful ob­ser­va­tion of the hu­man ca­pac­ity for cru­elty shaped Polan­ski's psy­cho­log­i­cally wrought work from the start. His 1962 fea­ture de­but in Poland, "Knife in the Wa­ter", was an erotic thriller about a cou­ple invit­ing a switch­blade-tot­ing hitch­hiker onto their yacht. While panned at home, it earned praise in the West, and was nom­i­nated for the Best For­eign Film Os­car. That reception prompted Polan­ski to move to Eng­landthe first of many self-im­posed ex­iles that nur­tured a sense of alien­ation res­onat­ing through­out his work-where he made "Repul­sion" (1965), "Cul-de-Sac" (1966), and "The Fear­less Vam­pire Killers" (1967). Lured to Hol­ly­wood in 1968, Polan­ski shot his first big in­ter­na­tional hit, "Rose­mary's Baby", star­ring Mia Far­row as an ex­pect­ing mother car­ry­ing the devil's spawn.

But tragedy shat­tered Polan­ski's life again the fol­low­ing year when his heav­ily-preg­nant wife, the model and ac­tress Sharon Tate, and four friends were bru­tally slaugh­tered in the di­rec­tor's man­sion by cult leader Charles Man­son and his fol­low­ers.

Dev­as­tated, Polan­ski left for Europe, then re­turned to achieve ar­guably his great­est tri­umph in 1974 with "Chi­na­town"-an at­mo­spheric film noir star­ring Jack Ni­chol­son nom­i­nated for 11 Os­cars, and still con­sid­ered a Hol­ly­wood clas­sic.

Run­ning from the law

In 1977 Polan­ski was ar­rested af­ter Gai­ley, now known as Sa­man­tha Geimer, charged that he forced her to have sex af­ter drug­ging her. The ini­tial felony counts were re­duced to un­law­ful sex­ual in­ter­course charges as part of a guilty plea bar­gain that saw Polan­ski serve 42 days in de­ten­tion while un­der­go­ing psy­chi­atric eval­u­a­tion. In 1978, con­vinced the judge was pre­par­ing to ig­nore the deal and hand him a heavy jail sen­tence, Polan­ski fled for France, be­gin­ning his new life as a fugi­tive. Al­though he avoided re­turn­ing to the US-not even to ac­cept the Os­car for "The Pi­anist"-Polan­ski jousted with Jus­tice Depart­ment au­thor­i­ties for years af­ter.

In 2009 he was ar­rested in Switzer­land by lo­cal au­thor­i­ties act­ing on Wash­ing­ton's ex­tra­di­tion re­quest. Polan­ski spent 10 months un­der house ar­rest be­fore Switzer­land de­cided not to re­spect the US or­der, amid a din of in­ter­na­tional de­bate over whether he was a vic­tim of vin­dic­tive US of­fi­cials ob­sessed with decades-old al­le­ga­tions, or a crim­i­nal who should be tried like any other. Geimer her­self called for the charges to be dropped, com­plain­ing that in dog­ging Polan­ski for so long, an­tag­o­nists had made him her co-vic­tim in a case she wanted to put be­hind her.

"The pub­lic­ity was so trau­matic and so hor­ri­ble that his pun­ish­ment was sec­ondary to just get­ting this whole thing to stop," Geimer told CNN in 2003. De­spite that view, Wash­ing­ton filed a re­quest with Poland in Jan­uary to ex­tra­dite Polan­ski while shoot­ing a film there. A court in the city of Krakow ruled against the de­mand in 2015. Then yes­ter­day, the Supreme Court re­jected an ap­peal filed by the gov­ern­ment. "We did not find a fla­grant vi­o­la­tion of the law," Judge Michal Laskowski said. — AFP

This file photo taken on March 28, 2012 shows French-Pol­ish film­maker Ro­man Polan­ski (front cen­ter) de­liv­er­ing a speech dur­ing a meet­ing at the Academie des Beaux-Arts (French Academy of Fine Arts), part of the In­sti­tut de France, on March 28, 2012 in Paris. — AFP

Ac­tor Matt Da­mon ges­tures in front of Chi­nese fans as he ar­rives at a red car­pet event for the movie ‘The Great Wall’ at a ho­tel in Bei­jing, yes­ter­day. — AP

In this pho­to­graph, Am­bas­sador of France Alexan­dre Ziegler, (left), cre­ative di­rec­tor Sanya Dhir, (sec­ond left), Bol­ly­wood ac­tress Vaani Kapoor (sec­ond right) and ac­tor Ran­veer Singh pose dur­ing a pro­mo­tional event for the forth­com­ing movie ‘Be­fikre’ in New Delhi. — AFP

This file photo taken on March 01, 2014 shows FrenchPol­ish di­rec­tor Ro­man Polan­ski pos­ing with his tro­phy dur­ing a pho­to­call af­ter be­ing awarded with the Best Di­rec­tor award for his film ‘La Venus a la Four­rure (Venus in Fur)’ dur­ing the 39th edi­tion of the Ce­sar awards cer­e­mony in Paris on Fe­bru­ary 28, 2014.

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