1 June 2014

Film Review - Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir (2011)


Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir is, as you probably already guessed, a documentary about the film director Roman Polanski. It’s directed by Laurent Bouzereau; a name you might recognize because he has directed a great majority of the home video documentaries on DVDs over the years. He made his name from the pioneering doc on the Making of Jaws from 1995.

The documentary is basically a conversation between Polanski and his old friend Andrew Braunsberg who is a former business partner and producer. They discuss everything from his early life in Poland and his mother’s death by the Nazis (his father survived the concentration camps) to his numerous great films and not so great films. The really interesting part of the documentary is his discussion of his early life when we find out how much his later film The Pianist is based on childhood memories of WW2, his time at the Polish film school and friendships with people like Andrzej Wajda who cast Polanski in some of his early films.

They also inevitably touch on the murder of his wife Sharon Tate, which was notoriously committed by the Manson family. They also can’t escape talking about Polanski’s rape of the 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. Here Polanski speaks of his regret of what he did, and gives valid reasons why he fled the US to never return. However the most shocking aspect is just how casually Braunsberg brings it up with: “Then suddenly you had your experience with Samantha.” This, however, isn’t the documentary for an examination of that court case- for that, watch the fantastic Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired.

It’s a fairly one-sided documentary because it’s made by people who have been friends of Polanski’s over the years-Bouzereau and Braunsberg. It is, however, a very solid documentary that gives some great insight into one of the greatest and most intriguing directors the world has ever seen. It would have perhaps been better suited being a documentary on a re-release of Polanski’s films on Blu-Ray more so than a stand-alone release.

★★★½

Ian Schultz


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