,. . .it’s shocking to many cinephiles and to the French in particular that the 76-year-old Polanski should be arrested. Since yesterday, reactions in favour of the film director have poured forth from across the political and cultural spectrum, including of course that of the culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand, who did not mince his words. He labelled the arrest “senseless” and “outrageous” nature of such arrest which comes from the “darker side of America, the one that scares us all.” The Cannes film festival is spearheading a campaign to free Polanski and the French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has contacted US secretary of state Hilary Clinton to ask for a presidential pardon. “We’re calling on every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation,” the American producer Harvey Weinstein said. Sources close to Weinstein said the mogul would reach out to Hollywood to lobby against any move to bring Polanski to the US, where he could face up to 50 years in jail.
There is a feeling in France that the US justice department is acting out some kind of prudish revenge against a great talent who never abided by American rules even when he was the most celebrated director in Hollywood.
Oh get off your high horse, demontez votre grand cheval, Madame. You, the cinephiles, the culture minister are, of course, asking that Polanski receive special treatment because he’s a famous and successful artist. You are the voice of the privileged speaking for the privileged.
Of course, nothing so vulgar as his fame or success is prejudicing you, but his talent – ah yes.
In fact in an irregular verb:-
I the bien pensant, admire the talent
You, officials of the American justice system are crassly influenced by fame
They, the envious, moralising, tabloid readers are howling at the celebs
Polanski’s fame got him access to the girl in the case; it influenced the judge to renege on one of those plea-bargaining deals in the American justice system; maybe it’s why the US justice department has pounced on him 31 years after he skipped bail. However, he is still being recalled to some kind of justice. But the cinephiles, Woody Allen, David, Lynch, Martin Scorcese et al are outraged that this is happening to one of the elect. So would the Marquise of this and the Comte de that and their lackeys be indignant if the Duc de something else was arraigned for a crime in pre-revolutionary France. Being taken off for a trial and incarceration is for the peasants – or for the “civilians” as the Hollywood high ups call the schlubs who buy the tickets and gawp at them swanning down the red carpet.
If a CEO, a member of parliament or a bishop had skipped bail and dodged their trial for such a crime they would not be allowed to get away with it, nor would herds of their fellow CEO’s, MPs or bishops be speaking up on their behalf, even if it was thirty years after the event. Famous and successful artists however seem to cast the same glamour as aristocrats once did, and regard themselves and their kind as being outside of the lumpen law-abiding.
Being “creative” is as grand as high birth used to be. People boast of their creative leanings as they used to boast of being third cousin to a baronet. A successful artist already has many privileges – wealth, people wanting to be his friend and/or lover; glory; and, most importantly to him, the chance to work at his art, even an expensive art like film-making. And one thing you can say about the privileged, is that they never think their privileges are unreasonable even if they include getting away with breaking a serious law.
Orwell called this kind of attitude the Benefit of Clergy:-
In an age like our own, when the artist is an altogether exceptional person, he must be allowed a certain amount of irresponsibility, just as a pregnant woman is. Still, no one would say that a pregnant woman should be allowed to commit murder, nor would anyone make such a claim for the artist, however gifted. If Shakespeare returned to the earth to-morrow, and if it were found that his favourite recreation was raping little girls in railway carriages, we should not tell him to go ahead with it on the grounds that he might write another King Lear.
Shakespeare might get away with it if the girls weren’t that little and he had assaulted them a few decades ago, as long as he had been feted in Cannes and was a winner of the Palme d’Or, or at least Ben Jonson, and all the Jacobean dramatists would be lobbying on his behalf. However, in those days no-one thought the artist as a being outside the usual laws, and the privileged ones of the time, the nobles, treated them like upper servants.