The Nobel-Hollywood Complex Implodes
Polanski, Letterman, and the Norwegians make conservatives’ day
by Noemie Emery
10/26/2009, Volume 015, Issue 06
Three times in the past several weeks, fortune has seemed to beam on conservatives, in unexpected and unprompted ways. Not that they’ve won much, but their tormentors keep losing. Three days in fall 2009 damaged or neutralized three liberal institutions, whose powers have now been curtailed.
Break number one came on September 26, when Roman Polanski, on his way to collect a lifetime achievement award from the Zurich Film Festival, was intercepted by Swiss police and tossed into prison, pending extradition to the United States, which he had fled 30 years earlier to avoid a jail sentence for drugging and raping a girl of 13 (a crime he had pleaded down to unlawful sex with a minor). This outrage–the arrest, not the rape–stunned the global artistic community, which quickly drew up a petition in protest, signed by la crème de la crème of stage and screen, including Salman Rushdie, Mike Nichols (Mr. Diane Sawyer), Martin Scorsese, Isabelle Huppert, Diane von Furstenberg (Mrs. Barry Diller), and Woody Allen, famous for having married his former flame’s daughter, whom he seduced when she was still in her teens. The excuses were many, and flew very fast. Whoopi Goldberg exonerated the French-Polish director on the grounds that it wasn’t “rape-rape” and thus not important. French sage Bernard-Henri Lévy, who organized a petition of support, called it a “youthful indiscretion” (Polanski was 43 at the time). Debra Winger, the Zurich festival’s president, called the arrest “philistine collusion” with puritanical America and typical of the persecutions that beset artists everywhere.
In defending their friend, the points made by his allies amounted to these: (1) The crime wasn’t that bad; (2) it was bad, but it was so long ago that it no longer mattered; (3) Polanski had suffered already: Family members had died in concentration camps, and his wife and unborn child were murdered; and (4) it might have mattered if it had been done by a lesser creative talent, but middle-class standards of law and of morals do not apply to artistes such as he. Their attitude was prefigured by Tom Shales of the Washington Post in a sympathetic June 9, 2008, review of a sympathetic HBO documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired: “Polanski belongs to a rarefied subculture: celebrities hounded by the state.”