Last night Alberto turned on the TV for the first time this year to watch the Césars (the French Oscars). I ignored it until they got to the Best Director award, which they gave to Roman Polanski. I didn't see Ghost-Writer, so I'm not going to say that the only reason he got the award was because of his legal problems this past year or that his movie was terrible or anything like that.
But he got a standing ovation, which no one else except for the honorary César winner got, and annoyingly thanked people for sticking with him while he was "en taule" ("in prison"), finishing his work. Of course, the taule he was referring to was his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, not a dormitory built for 70 but housing 200, with un-nutritious food, infrequent medical care, plenty of noise and distractions, and no technology with which to make a film. If he had finished his film in an actual prison, instead of a vacation home that he called prison, there might be something incredible there.
The elite knows that it takes real bravery to escape justice for several decades, real artistic dedication to work on a film from a vacation home in the Alps, and real character to rape a minor and then flee the country when faced with 90 days prison.
I told Alberto that if he wants to get his plays produced in the big theaters in Paris he might as well drug and rape a 13-year-old girl and then flee the country. It's not like these people are going to give a fuck about the girl.
For the record, I'm only referring to the rich people who were at Châtelet last night. The French people I know generally supported Polanski going to prison, or at least having to face a judge and having some sort of process for what he'd done. To me that was surprising considering how the French are more forgiving and empathetic then Americans are generally when it comes to criminal justice issues. No polling was actually done on the issue (one that kept on being cited was an unscientific online poll), but my guess is that most people either didn't know/care or thought that it should be up to a judge what happens to Polanski. Normal people think rape is bad and that it's one of the things the criminal justice system is supposed to punish people for, if the criminal justice system is really about deterring crime and not putting people deemed bad away to make the rest of us feel better.
The comments on the article linked at the top are coming down mostly against Polanski, especially since his film wasn't in French and few people had seen it. Here's a representative comment (translated by me):
La récompense de Polanski n'a d'autre but que de marquer le soutien de grande partie du cinéma français à cet homme. Apparemment ils se croient au dessus des lois et trouve inadmissible qu'on demande à l'un des leurs de rendre des compte à la justice. de plus, M. Polanski ose comparer son assignation à résidence à de "la taule". Il n'a donc aucun respect pour les détenus qui purgent leur peine dans des conditions abominables. Etre enfermé dans une résidence luxueuse de suisse en gardant contact avec l'extérieur n'est pas ce que j'appelle "faire de la taule".
The only reason they gave Polanski a prize was to show French cinema's support for this man. Apparently they think they're above the law and find it impermissible that one of their own has to face justice. Moreover, Mr. Polanski dared to compare living in his house to "jail." He has no respect for detainees who suffer in terrible conditions. Being enclosed in a luxurious residence in Switzerland, while keeping contact with the outside world, isn't what I'd call "going to jail."
But that didn't stop the literati, which is about as out-of-touch as the American cultural elite, from circling the wagons. Why, if someone like Roman Polanski could go to jail for rape, then that means that any of them could go to jail for rape! It reminds me of how American celebrity-journalists rallied around Bush Administration officials when Obama got into office, trying to prevent any sort of justice for war crimes that were committed.
One of the things I do like about people here is that they're less quick to blame and punish, but that doesn't mean that France has no blaming and no punishing going on.
Another thing I like is that people here are generally more aware of their own economic class background and the privileges and burdens it brings. And living in a country where police give bike riders fines for running red lights and can stop and ask anyone in the street for ID, they can tell that a man who has everyone standing and cheering for him because he was threatened with the possibility of paying for a crime even he admitted doing and who calls "prison" a house most people will never be able to afford, even for a vacation, is simply following in the tradition of other people who are too valuable to live by the same rules as everyone else.
Anyway, here's video that shows part of the standing ovation (around 0:33). I can't find better video of the Césars.