Roman Polanski is a filmmaker often overshadowed by his own unfortunate controversies. Indeed, this interview with Mark Cousins for the British series Scene By Scene begins by recalling the sexual incident that left Polanski in exile for 33 years. These elements from his own life have surfaced in his films, most notably the parallels to the Sharon Tate murder in his Macbeth (1971) adaptation, and it all suggests a deeply tormented man behind the camera. It may come as surprise, then, to find Polanski so humble throughout this particular interview, coming across as a deeply intelligent individual that is often shy when discussing his own work. The discussion can hit some snags, with Cousins applying a more academic brand of symbolism to the director’s movies—something that Polanski would much rather leave open to interpretation (at one point, he compares this to a poet revealing his metaphors). You can’t really blame him for that; his career contains many admirably personal and anguished films. The real enjoyment to be gained from of all this, though, like most great director profiles, comes from watching someone reflect on their own life and accomplishments for the camera and the audience. In one particularly great moment, Polanski views a clip from The Tenant (1976)—considered by many, including Cousins and myself, to be his masterpiece—remarking that he “forgot about this film”, and he watches it eagerly, smirking a little.
August 9, 2013