The first inning of what could prove to be long losing game for director Roman Polanski ended Tuesday with Swiss authorities rejecting his application for bail. The Associated Press quoted Swiss justice ministry spokesman Folco Galli saying, “We continue to be of the opinion that there is a high risk of flight.”
Polanski's French lawyers had tried to sell the ministry on the idea of allowing Polanski to leave custody and remain at his chalet in Gstaad. The authorities weren't buying, however, and AP reports that Polanski's attorneys are now focusing on fighting his extradition to Los Angeles, where he faces charges arising from his 1978 flight from America to avoid being sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.
Polanski's September 26 arrest on a U.S. warrant has set off a media frenzy as only a story that
is able to fit “rape,” “13-year-old,” “Hollywood” and “Quaalude” into a single sentence can. It's also triggered a new front in the endless cultural wars fought on cable TV and in the blogosphere, with Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley improbably portrayed as a modern-day Inspector Javert by Polanski's partisans, and the auteur seen by others as dangerous predator and scofflaw finally run to ground.
Sunday's New York Times ran an impressively snarky piece on France's attitudes toward felons in the arts. It noted the European shock that Polanski was detained while en route to a film festival, “as if film festivals were embassies or churches.” The feature, “The Polanski Case: A Gallic Shrug,” was written by Michael Kimmelman, who provided an inventory of past cases in which the French sympathetically looked the other way when accused murderers happened to be celebrity artists or intellectuals.
“[P]rominent French artists and intellectuals, or many of them anyway,” Kimmelman wrote, “believe that their work, by virtue of its excellence, allows them moral leeway.”
You may imagine how this is playing out in the American heartland, where sanctions are being called for against members of the Hollywood and European film industry who support Polanski. Can a Nancy Grace-led boycott of French fries be far away?