Victoria Jelinek


Polanski Exhibit in Paris

http://www.france24.com/en/20171030-france-roman-polanski-retrospective-sex-assault-allegations-paris-protest-cinema-weinstein

Chinatown_1It makes me frustrated and sad that feminist groups are protesting this retrospective of Roman Polanski’s work at La Cinémathèque Française in Paris. The exhibit is not about the man and allegations of sexual misconduct against him – it is about his filmmaking, and his films are masterpieces.

As an aside, for those interested in hearing details about his 1973 rape conviction in Los Angeles, the then-girl that Polanski raped supported a 2008 documentary that claimed there was judicial misconduct in the case, which may inform one’s opinion of the situation.

I am NOT defending assault or sexual harassment or sexual predators. I worked in Hollywood for ten years, and am not naive to the innuendos and injustices against women behind closed doors AND on the screen. It bothers me tremendously that I have to insert that disclaimer from the ‘get go’ in the hope of being listened to and not judged as a sexist or “traitor” myself. But sexism and misogyny exist in all fields and are insidious elements in every society. What I AM condemning is what seems to be a fevered frenzy at the moment. I AM condemning the lack of judiciousness on the part of the public. Allegations are ‘coming out of the woodwork’ about claims of hands on knees, or “inappropriate suggestions,” or implicit expectations, or “gropes,” from a variety of sources, which, in my opinion, undermines actual rape, assault, and battery and adds to a cacophony that is no longer really listened to, becoming, instead, part of an over-information storm akin to the environment depicted in A Brave New World. Why aren’t people being more critical about the recent barrage of sexual misconduct claims against celebrities and public figures? Why aren’t people considering the details, such as source, context, the current social climate (desire for celebrity status, however short lived, an age of “alternative facts” and moral perceptions entering popular “knowledge” and worse, politics, rising populism in the face of fear and a general sense of powerlessness, etc.).

Why aren’t we looking to the elements that create sexism and misogyny in the first place? I won’t even get into philosophical ruminations on the role of woman as “other” in society, but suggest concrete considerations: perhaps start with inequality in reproductive care, such as easy access to birth control or a safe abortion? Or inadequate financial help for single mothers? Or inequality in pay for the same work between men and women, as well as unequal opportunities to enter certain fields? Or inadequate practical support and protection for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault? Or inadequate representation of women in politics, which, perhaps, comes down to inequality in campaign financing? Or inadequate protection for women during divorce, especially from powerful or abusive husbands? Why are we, instead, focusing on the language we use, and exhibits of artwork, and ‘crimes’ based on hearsay propagated by social media platforms whose only interest is in identifying and categorizing the parameters of our consumer behavior?
If we protest the work of a great filmmaker based on his personal life – the details of which have not been proven without a doubt in a court of law anywhere in the world (prompting the question as to whether there is real respect for the law), then soon, we’ll be pulling books from male authors that discuss a woman’s body in a sexual light, of which there are many. And films that objectify women, of which there are many. And if we begin going down that road, we must eliminate classic film and literature that perpetuates stereotypes about women, men, Germans, Russians, Blacks, Jews, Mexicans, the French, the Spanish, Arabs, or the Chinese. Why not watch them, read them, study and discuss them? Deconstruct and consider the context they were created in, and by whom, and the opinions and emotions they inspire in us now and ask “why” frequently. If we start censoring art and expression – which is what this is – then we will soon have a dull, moralistic, constrained society with little imagination motivated absolutely by fear and anger and, likely, suppressed violence. And meanwhile, there will be no difference in the real and practical source of inequality for women, which is, in my opinion, economic and representative inequality. We will have undermined it all in a great, drowning, cacophony without clarity of focus.

Personally, I would not want to live in a society such as this. In what I perceive to be a very worrying time politically, socially, and environmentally, I derive strength from film and literature of the past and present – their excellence gives me hope for and in humanity. And, critically speaking, Polanski’s canon of work is an example of the finest filmmaking.

 

 

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The Pregnancy Diaries – 6

Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it. Lily Tomlin

I read somewhere once that stress is the most debilitating thing that you can do your body. This week, I’m suffering panic attacks because while I love living in France in theory, in practice, I don’t love living here and I’m not convinced it’s the best place for my unborn child.

In theory, I appreciate the history of France: The French Revolution, the Belle Époque, the French Resistance during WWII, the fact that it was a safe haven for misanthropes and those that ‘belonged’ nowhere else in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; I love the literature, Flaubert, Balzac, Colette and those that flocked here, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Stein, Fitzgerald; I admire the great philosophers, such as Barthes and Foucault; I love the Cinema du Cahiers’ work, their concept of the ‘auteur’ film, made popular by the likes of Truffaut and Godard; I appreciate that in a world that’s faster and busier, more materialistic and greedy, more individualistic rather than collectively oriented, that the French fight staunchly for their right to long lunches, many holidays, and a work week that does not exceed 35 hours; I love that healthcare has incorporated the best elements of the UK health system (Socialist) with the US health system (privatised attention and one must contribute in order to receive it); I love the cheese; I love the weather (mostly).

However, in practice, I do not like living here. The French are the worst consumers: mobile phone service, utilities, products for the home, for the baby, such as prams, beds, car seats, clothes, televisions, furniture, office supplies, you name it, it’s three times as expensive in France as in the UK or the U.S.A.; and service, the possibility of a return, is practically non existent. Closures at lunch, early in the evening and on Sunday, mean that there is a finite time to run necessary errands and conduct necessary business, particularly the loads of paperwork required for most ‘official’ activities here. The international DVD’s (I love Korean and Argentinian films) are either dubbed or sub titled in French; the French movies don’t have English subtitles; and the English films are usually dubbed, even in the cinema. I miss being able to go into a bookstore and get a book that I want, or into a library. The libraries here have strange hours, are closed on Wednesdays when the kids are out of school, and, locally, they are filled with books about mountains and mountaineering. I miss having restaurants that serve food out of the established lunch or dinner hours, and here in Chamonix, many of the restaurants and cafes are only open in the winter and the summer. The concept of ‘joyeux de vivre’ is ironic: there doesn’t seem to be much laughter or ‘letting go’ at a bar when they sip their tiny glass of vin rouge all afternoon; the French are mean, not only to foreigners, but even to each other. The stories that I’ve been told by other mothers regarding the schooling system – that it’s very negative, very rigid (‘colour in the lines’ sort-of-thing) – raises the hair on the back of my neck, even as I think there are other problems elsewhere. Ah, and the weirdest thing, no matter how big the parking lot or how empty it is, the French always seem to park right next to each other, meaning you often have to sidle in sideways to get into your car. So this week I wonder how I can live here ‘forever’ and bring up a child who will be a Frenchman for all intents and purposes.

All this said, I also read somewhere that with the demise of ‘big’ diseases – small pox, rubella, the plague – that allergies and neurosis developed…