First, a confession; I rate Roman Polanski as one of the all-time great movie directors. He might not move and obsess me quite as much as David Lynch, Ken Russell or Lindsay Anderson but he's one of the biggies of the cinema, that's for sure. Polanski on a really bad day is still several thousand times better than just about anything that is currently being puked out by Hollywood and when he's good he's practically angelic.
But do I think he should be let off his statutory rape charge with a slapped wrist? Er, no, actually and I don't think that the cavalcade of luvvies (which sadly includes David Lynch) who signed a letter requesting clemency have done themselves any favours either. Polanski, like many in the movie business, has a moral compass that clearly needs realigning and boasts a casting couch with more stains and threadbare patches than most. Now in his seventies he is a calmer, more serene individual than he was in his youth, but even a trial presided over by a dodgy judge doesn't excuse his inability to face up to his punishment.
I am all for the attitude of one of my friends, a big-time Benjamin Britten fan, who was outraged by Humphrey Carpenter’s 1992 biography of the composer in which Carpenter argued that Britten’s genius excused his paedophiliac tendencies. In my friend’s eyes genius is no free pass to criminal behaviour, nor should it ever be. But will Britten’s private life stop him from buying tickets to the next London production of The Turn of the Screw? Definitely not.
Yet there is a bigger villain in the Polanski case, namely the mother of Samantha Geimer who put her daughter in jeopardy by encouraging her to meet Polanski in the first place. Old Romek's penchant for young girls was well known and the fact that the meeting was to take place in the home of that renowned sleazeball, Jack Nicholson should have set her maternal alarm bells ringing.
Just look at the keywords here: teenage girl, modelling aspirations, Roman Polanski, Jacuzzi, Jack Nicholson, photography. Does it look anything other than salacious to you?
If a mother takes her baby from its crib and leaves it on the motorway the motorist who hits it is in a practical sense the person who killed it, but is he more culpable than the mother who left it in harm's way in the first place?
I think not.