The Polanski affair

As mentioned once before, Viewfinder doesn't often refer to recent items of the press, but for one obvious reason the French press are taking a particular interest in the Polanski case.

As the work of this 76 year old film producer, actor and writer has given a great deal of pleasure to millions of people, including me, it's also normal that one would be concerned by his having to contend with the accusation of a sexual offence dating from 1977, and the possibility of being extradited from Switzerland, where he has been assigned to residence since the 4th December, to face charges in the USA.

Over a hundred notable, international actors and film producers have signed a petition demanding Polanki's release. Among them include Woody Allen, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Martin Scorcese, David Lynch, Wong Kar Wai, Harmony Korine, Stephen Frears, Alexander Payne, Michael Mann, Wim Wenders, Tilda Swinton, Julian Schnabel, and Pedro Almodovar. It would seem that any, including Michael Douglas, who declined to sign the petition, are in the minority.

He recently 'broke his silence' regarding his case on 'Le Règle du Jeu', a site managed by Bernard-Henri Levy. Since then, and conveniently in time for the Cannes Festival, Polanski has been accused by a 42 year old actress of sexually abusing her in 1984 when she was 16 years old.

According to the Figaro, the latest story of the new accusation, is as follows:

'Charlotte Lewis, 42 years of age, has declared to the press that she was 'sexually abused in the worst possible manner' by the film producer, actually assigned to residence in Switzerland.

She affirms in Los Angeles of having been 'sexually abused' by the film producer Roman Polanski in his Parisian apartment in the early eighties, when she was 16 years old.

Charlotte Lewis, next to her lawyer, Gloria Allred, a specialist of 'affairs' regarding  notable personalities, declared that she was 'sexually abused in the worst possible way' by the film producer when she was 16. "Mr Polanski knew that I was only 16 when we met, and he forced me (to have sexual relations with him) in his Parisian apartment", continued the now 42 year old actress. In 1986, Charlotte Lewis figured in the Polanski film "Pirates". Since then she has performed in about thirty feature-length films and a televised series.

'All I want is that justice prevails'

"Besides the fact that his victim and myself were both under age, I believe that there are other similarities in the crimes which he committed. All I want is that justice prevails. It's very important that the prosecutor and the Swiss authorities have this information when they decide on the fate of Mr. Polanski", she continued. Gloria Allred specified that her client had filed a deposition with the police of Los Angeles (LAPD) as well as with the prosecutor, hoping that its testimony would be taken into account by the Swiss authorities to enable them to reach their decision regarding the extradition of the film producer.

Polanski's French lawyer, Mr. Kiejman, announced on Europe 1 the charges brought against his client. "The fact that this person has rediscovered her memory 26 years after the facts surprises more than one person", the French lawyer remarked ironically. "It all appears to me to be a pure and simple operation of blackmail which would deserve- if one could take it seriously- an action of libellous denunciation", he added. "I contacted Mr. Polanski (by telephone), he has no idea of what she's talking about. He well remembers that she acted in the film for him. He well remembers that the filming lasted several months in Tunisia. As for the aggression, he regards it as a pure and simple lie", George Kiejman concluded.

Roman Polanski is currently assigned to residence in Switzerland awaiting a possible extradition. He was arrested last September on an American mandate for an affair of "illegal sexual relationships" with a minor which occurred in 1977.'

Regarding this particular, somewhat belated accusation, the obvious questions would be:

Why, after being 'sexually abused in the worst possible way', did Charlotte Lewis neglect to seek justice at the time, and thus in doing so, perhaps save other young girls from the possibility of falling victim to Polanski in a similar, terrible way?

Why after being 'sexually abused in the worst possible way', did Charlotte Lewis accept to figure in Roman Polanski's film "Pirates" two years after the terrible ordeal?

Why, after being victim to Polanski in such an intolerable way did she wait 26 years, yet in time for the 63rd Cannes Festival, before accusing him of the crime? For if all she wants is that 'justice prevails', would it not have been more sensible, natural, credible, lawful, therefore just, to have filed her claim of being sexually abused by the film producer, before accepting to play a part in his film "Pirates" only two years later? Would it not have been more natural and 'correct' for a shockingly abused young victim, to refuse categorically to work with the man allegedly responsible for having caused her such an unforgettable, traumatising experience?

This post shouldn't be interpreted as a plea for or against Polanski. If he truly merits what the Californian Court of Justice maintains, then he should be convicted. But if, according to the victim directly concerned, the charges should be dropped as she has repeatedly demanded, surely her request cannot justly be ignored by the court, if indeed justice is to prevail.

By Mirino. Image courtesy of HBO Films, with thanks. May, 2010

A day of fishing

It was grey and cold for early May, but I had half-heartedly brought my fishing gear. After all, the hotel where we were staying for the weekend near Ormea, in the province of Cuneo, the Piedmont region of Italy, was on the river Tanaro, famous for it's trout fishing.
The proprietors of the Hotel San Carlo have managed the fishing reserve for more than twenty years, ever since the municipality of Ormea had granted them the concession and responsibility. It's supposed to be one of the most beautiful and renowned fishing reserves in Europe.

Patches of snow still lay on the mountains. The rich variety of greens of the spring clad mountain side forests, enhanced by trees that were in white blossom, was a treat for the eyes, perhaps even more so veiled in the mist.

The last time I went fishing was about twenty years ago. The regulars at the hotel, many of them French, well equipped with waders, landing nets and spinning gear, seemed to admire my old, split cane fly rods. This encouraged me to decide that I too should try my luck, in spite of the weather and the risk of making a fool of myself.

Fly fishing is perfect when the sky is clear and trout rivers are moderately low and limpid. When the rivers are high and fast after days of rain, the trout lie low. They'll go for spinners, and spoons that resemble foolish little fish and metallic minnows.
Sometimes they might go for a hook with feathers tied to it that might look vaguely like a fly nymph, but that's the big question.

Saturday morning the sky didn't look too bad. Blue patches here and there. So I set out wearing a 'see a mile away', bright red, cotton pullover and a green, cotton, fishing vest with lots of pockets, old jeans and running shoes to the fly-fishing 'no kill' zone. This means that you don't take what you might miraculously catch, as flies as a rule can more easily be removed from trouts' mouths than spinners, which often cause more damage. This is why spinning costs a bit more here. Considering the difference in price and the fact that spinning is always much easier and certainly more effective when the river is high, perhaps taking home some good sized trout would certainly be worth the modest difference.

But fly fishermen don't reason that way. They tend to consider themselves the refined elite, when it's more probable that they're the foolish die-hards, and all the more so in such impossible, conditions.

I eventually found a spot that I thought might weigh fractionally in my favour. Before leaning against a big rock to prepare casting up-stream, I had noticed three or four quite large trout low in the river. They were fairly inactive, holding their own against the current. I would cast over them and let my 'wet fly' nymph come back past them to tempt and tease them.

Time too has a habit of flying by when one is engrossed in trying to tempt and tease, torpid trout. And I had been overly optimistic about the weather. It was again grey with occasional rain showers, and cold. At about midday, feeling numb, I began to climb up the bank, slipped and got my left shoe full of icy water. This was a critical moment. Should I call it a day, go and have a relaxing, hot bath and a nice lunch? It made good sense.
I reached the top of the bank and looked down upon the swollen river where I had been vainly casting against the wind and all odds. Amazingly the trout were still there, facing the current, undisturbed by my arm aching antics and seemingly smirking troutishly. I double checked. It wasn't a mirage.

That decided it. I limp-squelched back to the car, put on a less conspicuous, beige, light-weight wind jammer over my red cotton pullover, put my fishing vest over the wind jammer and limp-squelched all the way back to the place where the indifferent trout were lurking. But this time, instead of casting up stream, I braved the menace of the trees behind me by casting diagonally, upriver to the trout.
Still no go. The nymphs  weren't sinking low enough in the fast water. I tied on one with black feathers and a double hook. Heavier, it should sink a bit lower.

One of the trout turned and flashed. Good sign.
After a while I was tempted to change the fly once more, but finally decided not to.
I was cold. So cold that I felt unsteady on the small rock just out of the water. If I fell in, it would be fatal for the camera, brought along especially, to immortalise a miracle, before it was lovingly, generously returned to the river. My mind was beginning to flip. When will BP succeed in containing Iceland's volcano?

It was at that very moment of mind wandering, when I was blinking tears of cold, trying to pull myself together, that one of the trout took the black, double hooked nymph. Bang!  I too was totally taken by surprise. So much so that I again slipped into the icy water and filled my right shoe to match the left one. But then I was feverishly absorbed in trying to land the trout without breaking the fine parabolic leader cast. At that moment I had visions of myself chest deep in the rapids playing the fighting monster like Brad Pit in 'A River Runs Through it'.

Yet even without a net I managed to get it to the bank, extracted the fly nymph and photographed it as proof, before letting it go.

Incredibly, despite the disturbance, the other trout were still there. Just as brainless as I am. Maybe I could get another one. But I, and perhaps even they, were spared from further foolishness. The successful nymph got tangled up in a branch of the nearest tree. Shivering, I tried to climb up but it was too slender. I got to a point where I was almost within reach- by bending the branch down pulling on the line- before the cast broke.

This finally decided it. It was 5 pm, my lips were blue. I hadn't eaten all day. I was wet, cold and exhausted. But I had had the most wonderful day.

Text and mages © Mirino (PW) May, 2010

Sir Thomas More

Today there seems to be no limit to technological achievement, yet at the same time Nature (or God) appears to be more intent than ever in reminding us that She (or He) is still the boss. Paradoxically man's own level of intelligence doesn't always seem to measure up to his technological prowess. Indeed in some cases it even appears to regress.
Under such circumstances, which have to include present religious differences, it might be interesting to refer to a certain passage of English history.

The young King Henry VIII, crowned on Midsummer's day in 1509 was a dynamic, talented and impetuous lover of life. But he was destined to become a tyrant, eliminating anyone thought to be impeding him in realising what in fact proved to be delusory. Yet by divorcing from the Roman Catholic Church and establishing himself as Supreme head of the Church of England, he inadvertently contributed to accelerating the development of independent parliament and constitutional democracy in the green and pleasant land that he loved.
What was delusory was his obsession to sire a worthy son and heir to the throne, when in fact his daughter, Elizabeth I, set a precedent. Some would argue that she was one of the finest monarchs in English history. It was certainly one of the richest cultural eras. It could hardly be otherwise, with Shakespeare.

Henry VIII had great respect for Thomas More who later was to become his Lord Chancellor. More, however, chose to resign when the king married Anne Boleyn, his own faith preventing him from taking the oath for the act of Succession and Supremacy of 1534. In spite of his resignation, Henry wasn't satisfied. More's refusal was still considered as treason. The king spared him from torture, but he was tried, convicted and beheaded in 1535. Four hundred years later, in 1886, he was beatified by the Catholic Church as St. Thomas More. He was also canonised in 1935 and added to the Church of England calendar of Saints in 1980.

Lawyer, scholar, author, and known as a Renaissance humanist, More had great wit and sense of irony. In addition to his important, official functions, his writing earned him an international reputation. Utopia, a political satire of the epoch, was originally written and published in Latin in 1516.

Reading parts of it, one finds it difficult to relate such thinking to the early 16th century, when such barbaric methods of punishment and persuasion were regularly, lawfully used. In fact More also wrote against them in his 'Utopia'.

Like other extracts from it, the following from 'Book 2 (Religions)' is particularly revealing and appropriate in relation to the religious turmoil in the world of today.

'Even before he took over the island, King Utopus had heard that the natives were continually squabbling over religious matters. Actually, he found it easy to conquer the country because the different sects were too busy fighting one another to oppose him. As soon as he had gained the victory, therefore, he decreed that every man might cultivate the religion of his choice, and proselytize for it too, provided he did so quietly, modestly, rationally, and without bitterness toward others. If persuasions failed, no man might resort to abuse or violence, under penalty of exile or slavery.
Utopus laid down these rules, not simply for the sake of peace, which he saw was being destroyed by constant quarrels and implacable hatreds, but also for the sake of religion itself. In such matters he was not at all quick to dogmatize, because he suspected that God perhaps likes various forms of worship and has therefore deliberately inspired different men with different views. On the other hand, he was quite sure that it was arrogant folly for anyone to enforce conformity with his own beliefs, by threats or violence. He supposed that if one religion is really true and the rest are false, the true one will sooner or later prevail by its own natural strength, if men will only consider the matter reasonably and moderately. But if they try to decide things by fighting and rioting, since the worst men are always most headstrong, the best and holiest religion in the world will be crowded out by foolish superstitions, like grain choked out of a field by thorns and briars. So he left the whole matter open, allowing each person to choose what he would believe. The only exception was a positive and strict law against anyone who should sink so far below the dignity of human nature as to think that the soul perishes with the body, or that the universe is ruled by blind chance, not divine providence'.
Text © Mirino (PW). Source- The Norton Anthology English Literature. Thomas More (with thanks). 
        Portraits (circa 1527) by Hans Holbein (with thanks to Wikimedia Commons) May, 2010