This weekend the Music Box opens the first Chicago engagement of Marina Zenovich's documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which looks at the notorious 1977 statutory rape case against the highly regarded film director. It's a fascinating movie in many ways, exploring the media's sick fascination with Polanski (whose parents died in the Holocaust and whose pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, was slaughtered by the Manson Family in August 1969) and reconstructing the judicial skullduggery that prompted Polanski to flee the U.S. in February 1978, never to return. But both times I watched the movie, I came away with the queasy sense that Zenovich was trying to excuse Polanski for his crime, playing up his tragic history and artistic achievements. It's OK to drug and sodomize a 13-year-old girl. the movie implies, when you can make a movie as good as Chinatown.
The case is way too complicated for me to synopsize here, so you should check out the movie yourself before taking my word. But you might also want to read the transcription of the victim's testimony at TheSmokingGun.com. When you see it from her perspective, the idea of Roman Polanski—who served only 42 days in protective custody, for psychiatric observation—as a martyr of the American justice system begins to break down.