“Laurent Bouzereau’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir offers a fascinating glimpse into the complex and often controversial life of director Roman Polanski, culled from some 20 hours of conversation filmed at Polanski’s Gstaad estate during his house arrest at Zurich’s film festival in 2009.” Screen‘s Mark Adams: “The film—which had a ‘secret’ world premiere at the Zurich Film Festival last year—has a Special Screening in Cannes, and while unlikely to spark headlines, it is a gripping film biography of an intriguing, challenging and talented filmmaker.”
“In a film blessed with a subject who is complex and charismatic, forthcoming and surprisingly sympathetic, the major problem is Polanski’s painfully ingratiating on-camera interviewer, Andrew Braunsberg,” finds David Rooney, writing for the Hollywood Reporter. “A close friend since 1964, Braunsberg served as Polanski’s producer on Macbeth, The Tenant and What?… In more skilful hands, this might have been an eloquent testament to an artist widely considered to have paid his debt during 35 years of physical exile and personal vilification. To some extent, it achieves that, due to Polanski’s candor, his still emotionally raw recollections of painful episodes from his life and his assessment without self-pity of the misdemeanors that landed him in hot water. But those merits are too often undercut by Braunsberg’s maddeningly leading interview style. Neither the people in favor of Polanski being granted unconditional liberty nor the moral watchdogs still clamoring for him to be brought to justice are likely to have their opinion swayed as a result of this ineffectual package.”
The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw finds that Polanski is “fluent, passionate and moving about his childhood wartime experiences in Occupied Poland…. I didn’t realize how closely the 2002 film The Pianist was based on precise childhood memories of the Krakow ghetto. It is the film he says he is proudest of now. That may perplex admirers of his (surely superior) works Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. But those films were created by a dark, troubled, brilliant filmmaker—a persona replaced, here, by a more statesmanlike figure who prefers to revisit an historical era of childhood which, however tragic and horrifying and traumatized, appears more important, and is the one in which his own innocence was absolute.”
The AFP reminds us that “Polanski, himself expected in the Cannes festival Monday to present a restored version of his 1979 film Tess, is planning a film about one of the most high-profile miscarriages of justice in French history, the Dreyfus affair.”
Updates, 5/25: This is “a biographical portrait whitewashed in crocodile tears,” sighs Entertainment Weekly‘s Owen Gleiberman. More from Kevin Jagernauth (Playlist, B) and Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa). And the Festival interviews Bouzereau.