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Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Principles and Polanski: Never the Twain Shall Meet?


In my whole life I've only seen two Roman Polanski* directed films - Chinatown and Frantic. Didn't much care for either one. Frantic was my least favorite Harrison Ford flick, Chinatown my least favorite Nicholson outing (though admittedly I'm not a big Nicholson fan either).

Polanski's films, the ones I've seen and the ones I've only seen previews of, seem sleazy and dark anyway and I'm not terribly surprised that Polanski did something sleazy and dark himself.  I'm more surprised that he was actually arrested for it.

Now there's a big uproar in the conservative community because some Hollywood types are standing up for Polanski.  "See Big Hollywood has no principles," they cry.  Hmmm.  Sounds to me like an echo of the cries about "Big Oil" that came from the other side of the chamber during the Bush years.

Is anyone really surprised that Hollywood would support their boy? Have you seen his filmography lately?  The man generates a lot of work for everybody. If Hollywood turned on one of its cash cows, some of the glitterati might just have to give up that second Ferrari and that would be unacceptable. Think of the starving Italian peasant auto workers who would be put out of work if that happened.

AND you can bet that every producer who ever sacked a starlet would take note of which actors and actresses could not be trusted next time there's a casting call.

Hollywood could no more turn on a big time producer than Exxon could go around insulting Arab sheiks and princes.  It just ain't good business.

You'll note that the causes they champion are pretty much low risk for their careers. As much as they depend on movie-goers for their living, they aren't worried about us not showing up for a good movie.  We've all been willing to ignore the character flaws of the people involved in making films.  Many of our favorite actors and actresses are reprehensible people, but if we need a two hour escape and the film makes us laugh or takes our minds off the rat-race or we just want to see it, then, our vaunted principles get folded up and left on the car seat. 

It's easy to talk a tough game, but having principles can be pretty difficult. For all our tough talk, how many of us would have skipped the last installment of Star Wars or the Harry Potter series or some other favorite movie simply because Roman Polanski directed it or, even more likely, if some actor who supported him was only a member of the cast?  Do you skip the whole movie because one actor with low moral standards is in the movie?  It would make it pretty tough to find a movie to go to!

People laugh at people who don't go to theaters for moral or religious reasons.  Not going to movies used to be more common, but now it's seen as archaic and reactionary and a cause for snickering.

See what I mean about it being tough to have principles?  It's no wonder the actors aren't worried about our righteous indignation.  It's certainly not likely to cost them any money.

Tom King
Flint, TX

* This photo file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5, Attribution ShareAlike 2.0 and Attribution ShareAlike 1.0 License. In short: you are free to share and make derivative works of the file under the conditions that you appropriately attribute it, and that you distribute it only under a license identical to this one.  Original photo by Rita Moln├ír.

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