Famed (and infamous) director Roman Polanski has announced that his next film project will be D, a political thriller based on the real-life tale of Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jew wrongly imprisoned for spying at the turn of the century. What drew him to the topic? Its theme of antisemitism? Perversely, it is about a persecuted minority – just not the one you might think.
The creative force behind such films as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist among many others, Polanski pled guilty to raping an underage girl in 1977, then fled the United States for the protection of France’s non-extradition law. There his filmmaking career has thrived and he has lived the high life of a revered artist. The list of awards and honors bestowed upon him and his films is towering; he is even the recipient of France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion d’Honneur, alongside such notables as Gen. George Patton, Victor Hugo, and, coincidentally, Dreyfus himself.
Polanski and his apologists consider his fugitive status to be nothing more than petty persecution on the part of Puritanical Americans who don’t understand that a great artist should be above the law. So when Polanski was in Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival in 2009 and was put temporarily under chateau arrest at the behest of the U.S., French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand gave vent to melodramatic outrage:
To see him thrown to the lions and put in prison because of ancient history — and as he was traveling to an event honoring him — is absolutely horrifying. There’s an America we love and an America that scares us, and it’s that latter America that has just shown us its face.
(Mitterand should be comforted to know that back here in scary America, Polanski is still supported by Hollywood sophisticates who rush to the defense of a sex offender but who would be absolutely horrified, as Mitterand might put it, to find themselves in the same zip code with a Republican.)