Home Featured Sculpture French sentiment for Roman Polanski starts to turn

French sentiment for Roman Polanski starts to turn


Members will vote at the ARP’s next general assembly, the association’s board said in a statement. If passed, Polanski would be suspended. (The association did not yet have a date set for the meeting.)

“ARP strongly supports all victims of violence and today decided to make a strong commitment to support the fight for the rights of victims,” the statement said.

ARP strongly supports all victims of violence and today decided to make a strong commitment to support the fight for the rights of victims.

The news came just hours after it was revealed that Polanski’s latest film – J’accuse, a historical account of the life of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish military officer wrongly convicted of treason in France – had topped the country’s box office, even though protests by groups of feminists shut down several screenings in Paris, the northern city of Rennes and Saint-Nazaire, a city in the west.

Roman Polanski's latest film J'Accuse.

Roman Polanski’s latest film J’Accuse.

Some 386,000 people saw J’accuse in its opening week, according to figures provided by CBO, a firm that collates French box office data. The movie is set to be released in English-speaking countries in 2020 with the title An Officer and a Spy.

The directors’ association, ARP, is not alone in moving against Polanski. On November 14, Delphine Ernotte, the chief executive of France Télévisions, which helped finance the movie, said at a conference on gender equality that the decision was an “error of judgment.””I understand the emotion, and the questions, raised by that decision,” Ernotte said.

Polanski has faced a renewed focus on his past this month largely because of a new allegation against him. On November 8, Valentine Monnier, a photographer, accused Polanski of raping her in 1975, when she was 18, in a ski chalet in Switzerland.

Previous former Palme d'or winners from left, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach, Claude Lelouch, Roman Polanski and Jerry Schatzberg at the 70th Anniversary of the film festival, Cannes, southern France in 2017.

Previous former Palme d’or winners from left, Michael Haneke, Ken Loach, Claude Lelouch, Roman Polanski and Jerry Schatzberg at the 70th Anniversary of the film festival, Cannes, southern France in 2017.Credit:AP

Polanski propositioned her on a ski lift one day, Monnier told the French newspaper Le Parisien. She rejected him, but that night, he called her upstairs then threw himself on her, hit and raped her, she said. Polanski denies the allegation and his spokeswoman did not reply to a request to comment for this article.

Another allegation of sexual abuse in France’s film industry also appears to have changed the mood among filmmakers. On November 3, Mediapart, an investigative news website, published an investigation into accusations by Adèle Haenel, a well-known actress in Paris, who said that starting at age 12 she was sexually harassed by director Christophe Ruggia on the set of The Devils, a 2002 film about orphans in a children’s home. She said that the behavior continued after the movie’s release.

Ruggia denied the allegations in a statement to Mediapart, but said that on the film set he had “made the mistake of playing Pygmalion,” which had led to “misunderstandings.” (In Greek mythology, Pygmalion was a sculptor who fell in love with one of his own carvings.)

In a follow-up interview by Mediapart live on YouTube, Haenel said she was sharing her story to help others. She wanted others who had experienced abuse to know that they were not alone, she said, and encouraged them to come forward, too.

Haenel’s words sent “an earthquake” through the French film industry, according to an editorial in Libération, a daily newspaper. The Société des Réalisateurs de Films, another directors’ association, immediately started procedures to strip Ruggia of his membership. “The SRF expresses its total support, admiration and gratitude to Adèle Haenel,” it said in a statement.

These reactions from industry organizations have been noticeably different from those that followed the dawning of the #MeToo moment in France. Last year, Catherine Deneuve and over 100 other Frenchwomen wrote an open letter arguing that the movement had gone too far and created an environment where even “clumsy flirting” was now banned. (Deneuve later apologized to victims of sexual assault.)

The airing of Haenel’s story was key to this change in mood, said Johanna Soraya, an organizer of @JaccuseP, a Twitter account that acts as a hub for people protesting Polanski’s film. “A lot of victims spoke before,” Soraya said in a telephone interview, “but Adèle is really famous, and on trend, not a past actress.” The follow-up video interview published by Mediapart had created “the perfect moment” for people to question Polanski’s support in the French film industry, she said.

However, even in this changing climate, French moviegoers have flocked to see J’accuse. On Monday night, at the MK2 cinema in the Stalingrad neighborhood in Paris, several people said they had thought twice about seeing the film. “I came here in hiding,” said Virginie Dupon, a 47-year-old teacher. “I’m not very proud.”

Jocelyne Javelaud, 48, a director of a company, said: “It’s hard to admire the work of someone you do not support.” She added: “I said to myself that I wouldn’t tell anyone I went.”

Others had fewer qualms. “Going to see it wasn’t an act of solidarity,” said George Bismuth, 66, a painter. Bismuth said he was Jewish and the film, about one of the most notorious episodes of anti-Semitism in French history, was of personal importance to him. “This film touches on my sense of belonging,” he said.


Charles Bridier, 40, said he had been debating whether to see the film, then heard someone on the radio say viewers should separate Polanski’s private life from his films.

“I think we can watch a movie and keep some distance between it and the director,” Bridier said.

The New York Times

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