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Polanski: A Biography Hardcover – September 2, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Celebrity biographer Sandford (McCartney, etc.) tackles the life of director Roman Polanski, but only scratches the surface of one of cinema's most controversial figures. Born in Paris in 1933, Polanski, with his family, moved to Poland in 1936 on the eve of World War II. His mother died in Auschwitz and his father was imprisoned for the duration of the war, leaving Polanski to fend for himself in the Kraków ghetto. He later attended Lódz's National Film School and began attracting attention for themes that would become his trademarks: voyeurism, sexual tension and latent violence. Polanski took full advantage of the swinging '60s in Paris, London and later America, and developed a reputation as a lothario with an eye for younger women. His life and career in America, which included the classics Rosemary's Baby (1968) and Chinatown (1974), were marred by two pivotal events: the 1969 slaying of his pregnant wife, actress Sharon Tate, by members of Charlie Manson's Family and Polanski's own arrest in 1977 for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. (Sept.) ""
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It’s hard to accept that erstwhile enfant terrible Polanski is now a hoary, Oscar-toting elder of the cinema, which exalted status Sandford shows he has gone through hell to achieve. Polanski escaped the Krakow ghetto at 10, and his mother was murdered in Auschwitz. After several critically acclaimed arthouse films made in his native Poland and Britain, he emigrated to the States, where he launched a successful mainstream career (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown) that was interrupted by the gruesome murder of his wife by Charles Manson’s followers and derailed by his 1978 conviction for statutory rape. Fleeing to Europe to avoid imprisonment, he scored a decisive comeback in 2002 with the acclaimed Holocaust drama The Pianist. Sandford generally avoids sensationalizing the lurider aspects of Polanski’s life, coming off as an unabashed fan. Readers not similarly disposed may feel he overpraises Polanski’s lesser films and lets him off too easily for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl. Fans, of course, will feel Polanski’s harrowing life and filmic accomplishments warrant such sympathetic treatment. --Gordon Flagg
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I am a huge admirer of Roman, I know his work well and I know his life well... but this book was a major disappointment. I found it to be really boring and went on and on about things that I really didn't care much about. I guess what I was expecting was more actual thoughts from Polanksi on his life and what he has become since childhood, but instead I think was is presented is a timelined summary of all the things that had happened to him from escaping WW2 through the Manson incident and the statutory rape/exile incident, etc.
There are some interesting depictions of events that happen on the sets of certain films and the precursory materials that lead up to these films, which for me was the most interesting parts of the book.
Granted, if you know nothing about Polanski perhaps this will be of interest. I found it to be poorly written, uninteresting, and not worth the time.
This book is a detailed account of not only Polanski’s personal life and family life but also his film career.
The author seems to think that September 11th was a telling day for Polanski through out his life. However, I could only find two references to that date; 1) In 1961 on September 11th Polanski was a passenger in a car that was involved in an accident. Polanski woke up in the hospital with a fractured skull. 2) A year later, September 11 was the first day that one of Polanski’s films was shown in the U.S.
I was surprised to learn that Sharon Tate’s acting career began with a string of cigarette ads which was followed by appearances on The Beverly Hill Billies, Petticoat Juncation and Mr. Ed. The author writes of Tate’s one affair with a foreign visitor who beat her up so badly it landed her in the hospital. You’ll hear of other interactions Tate had with men including Polanski. I found it interesting that the author did not go into any detail about Tate’s upbringing or her relationships with her mother and father. She is, after all, an important element of the book. In facts, her picture is on the cover.
The book covers Polanski’s life and relationships in depth. I was surprised to learn Polanski took martial-arts lessons from Bruce Lee. You’ll also hear of the coupling of Mia Farrow and Peter Sellers. As you can see this book isn’t just one story, it’s many stories. You’ll learn a lot about Manson, like how the three primary sources of his philosophy were Scientology, the Bible and the Beatles.
How very tragic that both Polanski’s wife and mother had both been murdered while pregnant.
The author only touches, briefly, on the affair Polanski had with 15 year old, Nastassia Kinski.
You’ll learn of Polanski being paid a commission to photograph young girls, 13 -14 years old.
Interestingly enough, this book claims to contain the sealed transcripts from Polanski’s court ordeal involving, the then 13 year old, Samantha Jane Gailey, who is known as Samantha Geimer. We aren’t talking trial documents, because there was no trial.
Surprisingly you’ll learn a lot about Judge Rittenband who was handling the Gailey vs. Polanski case.
I was surprised to read that it has been reported that on then President Jimmy Carter’s last day in office, in January 1981, Carter gave thought to pardoning Polanski.
I was also surprised to learn several members of the voting Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences received death threats and temporarily left the country or went into hiding when Polanski was nominated for the Best Achievement in Directing Oscar, for The Pianist.
The book covers a lot and is well worth the read.
Informative, respectful and well written.