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In defense of Roman Polanski

October 10, 2009

Re "Polanski, Seen Through His Own Lens," by Reed Johnson, Oct. 5: This was so long overdue. Thank you for addressing the real issue here. This is so much more than "Hollywood versus Middle America, liberals versus feminists, hardliners versus apologists." At issue is a fundamental perception of the artist and his role in society.

Artists must by definition redefine their own moral universe, and this can be a terrible, ugly and devastating process. But what they "pay back" to us, what they contribute to society are enduring legacies we would barely fathom in our quotidian lives.

The films of Roman Polanski are just that -- glimpses of depravity, horror and morality gone mad, filtered through his own very real-life experiences. But for anyone who would denounce this tragic and talented man as a monster, I defy you to watch him sobbing at the loss of his pregnant wife and unborn child at the hands of Charles Manson and then carefully rethink your position. As for myself, I cannot even imagine the presumptuousness of a sick society that would hold itself up as morally justified to pass judgment and incarcerate him after such a heinous act. We lost our moral high ground with Polanski long ago.

As far as Polanski's debt to society, if such a thing weren't so ludicrous on its face, he has paid us back in droves, and perhaps through "Chinatown" alone. Excuse me, but what the hell do they think this film is about? Uniquely, and perhaps even exclusively, Roman Polanski has shown us, whether it be through the Nazis or the diabolically predatory wrangling of Noah Cross, real evil manifests itself not just in the actions of corrupt, tragic individuals, but in political movements, zealous prosecutors, morally hysterical majorities and publicity motivated judiciaries.

Michael Chase Walker

Encino

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