Laurent Bouzereau’s documentary on one of cinema’s greats is pretty simple in structure: Producer Andrew Braunsberg, an old friend of director Roman Polanski (“Chinatown,” “Tess”) visits him for a long conversation about his life and career. The subtext is that this takes place in 2009, when Polanski was under house arrest in Zurich while awaiting possible extradition to the United States for a criminal charge (unlawful sex with a minor) dating back to 1977.
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The doc is quite good on Polanski’s childhood, growing up in Poland during the Nazi occupation and the trauma of losing his mother to the gas chambers; we see exactly how much of Polanski’s own experience wound up in his Oscar-winning film of 2002, “The Pianist.” But the meat of the interview comes when we get to the ’70s. Polanski is still visibly shaken when discussing the Manson Family murder of his then-pregnant wife, Sharon Tate: “Everything collapsed … I was not myself for years.”
To his credit — and unlike the controversy-avoiding Woody Allen docs — Polanski speaks frankly on the incident that got him in trouble with the law. It’s interesting to note what the press often ignores when discussing this charge: that Polanski returned to America to face sentencing, spent time in jail and only fled when a media-savvy judge decided to renege on his plea-bargain deal. (G.F.)