Saturday, October 14, 2006

From the Sunday NY Times








The Judge and the Auteur: Revisiting the Polanski Case

LOS ANGELES

MARINA ZENOVICH’S office here looks as if it should belong to an absent-minded film professor. A cluttered room adjacent to an editing suite on the city’s west side, it is packed with file folders containing hundreds of press clippings and the inevitable stacks of videotape. But a corkboard on the wall betrays a preoccupation that stirs more than academic passions in these parts.

The board is dominated by two photographs. One shows an almost young Roman Polanski, dressed in a dapper suit, hair parted to one side, looking lean, boyish and handsome. The other reveals a man in a black robe, with thinning white hair and a roundish face supported by a stocky frame. The caption under it reads, “Laurence J. Rittenband, Judge.”

“These two men met their match in each other,” said Ms. Zenovich in an interview last month.

Laurence J. Rittenband, who died in 1993, was the California judge who almost 30 years ago presided over the notorious case in which Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty to having unlawful sex with a minor. Even after Mr. Polanski fled to France in advance of his sentencing date, the judge vowed to stay on the bench until he returned to the United States.

Instead, Mr. Polanski, now 73 and a French citizen, remained a fugitive, and prospered as a film director, winning an Oscar in 2003 for “The Pianist.” Judge Rittenband, who left the bench in 1989, died at 88 without completing his quest. But he left behind enough professional and personal drama to have joined Mr. Polanski as a central character in Ms. Zenovich’s forthcoming documentary, which promises to shed new light on one of modern Hollywood’s more perplexing episodes.

The new film, unfinished and untitled, is being produced by Jeffrey Levy-Hinte (“Thirteen”) and Lila Yacoub (“The Anniversary Party”), and has Steven Soderbergh as an executive producer. It was recently acquired for distribution in Britain by the BBC, and when it eventually appears here in theaters or on the festival circuit, it will likely renew the debate over whether Mr. Polanski still has a price to pay if he returns to the United States.

Ms. Zenovich, a 43-year-old former actress who once had a small part in “The Player,” said it is impossible to reach conclusions about Mr. Polanski without drawing Judge Rittenband into the equation.

“I’ve never set out to diminish the seriousness of what Polanski did, but it comes down to crime and punishment,” she explained. “How much do you have to pay for the crime? What I’ve always set out to prove is, despite what Polanski did, which was awful, he was treated unfairly by the judge. That’s the bottom line.”

Convinced that even reasonably well informed people do not completely understand the Polanski case, Ms. Zenovich pursued a doggedly reportorial course, undeterred by Mr. Polanski’s refusal to participate. (A spokesperson for Mr. Polanski confirmed that he has no involvement with the documentary.) She conducted on-camera interviews with nearly 100 people, including Samantha Geimer, the girl, now in her 40’s, with whom Mr. Polanski had sex and who has publicly forgiven him. Other interview subjects included figures connected with the director’s film career, among them Mia Farrow, Nastassja Kinski, Robert Evans and Robert Towne.

But considerable attention is reserved for Judge Rittenband, who was something of a legend in his own right, having overseen murder cases involving the so-called Billionaire Boys Club and Sarai Ribicoff, during his time on the California Superior Court. Ms. Zenovich sees both Mr. Polanski and Judge Rittenband as men who rose by force of will from humble roots. Mr. Polanski survived Nazi persecution and lost his mother in the Holocaust. The judge, from a less dire background, was a poor Brooklyn boy who, upon graduating high school at 15, bypassed undergraduate work for New York University Law School; he later attended Harvard, because he was too young to take the New York bar exam, graduating Phi Beta Kappa.

Ms. Zenovich describes the judge as having lived the kind of vibrant personal life easier to associate with Mr. Polanski. “He was never married, and he loved being kind of a swinging bachelor, juggling a couple of girlfriends at once,” she said. “What’s most interesting about him is that he tried to come across as so moralistic, but eventually I found out that this was a man who had a 20-year-old girlfriend when he was 54.”

In a rough edit of the film, Richard Brenneman, who covered the case for The Santa Monica Evening Outlook, recalls drafting an affidavit immediately after Judge Rittenband’s death, in which he documented his conversations with the judge in chambers: “Most specifically, how he asked me what sentence to impose on Polanski, which was illegal.”

In another clip the producer Hawk Koch recounts that his father, the late Howard W. Koch, recalled overhearing Judge Rittenband at the exclusive Hillcrest Country Club, where the judge was a popular member.

“One of the gentlemen at Hillcrest came up to Rittenband,” Mr. Koch tells Ms. Zenovich, “and said, ‘Are you really going to let that little Polish blah-blah-blah off?’ And Rittenband said: ‘Well, he thinks so, but no way. We’re going to put that little blank-blank away for the rest of his life.’ ”But Judge Rittenband certainly has his devotees, including his nephew, Elliot Rittenband.

“He felt an obligation and a duty to do what he felt was best, and he always stuck to it,” Mr. Rittenband tells Ms. Zenovich. Marsh Goldstein, one of the judge’s calendar deputies, recalls to Ms. Zenovich: “He was one of the most intelligent men I’ve run across — literate, well read, with a wonderful vocabulary, a wonderful way of quoting famous writers and philosophers in the course of your calling calendar.”

A key revelation, Ms. Zenovich said, came from the case’s retired prosecutor, Roger Gunson, who suggests in the film that Judge Rittenband acted improperly before Mr. Polanski decided to skip the country in 1978. At first all sides had agreed that the only sentence he should serve would be a 90-day psychiatric evaluation in prison at Chino, Calif. But when Chino authorities, fearing for Mr. Polanski’s safety, released him after 42 days, an infuriated Judge Rittenband called in both sets of lawyers and announced a new plan. He wanted to put Mr. Polanski back in prison for another 48 days or deport him, Mr. Gunson says in an interview with Ms. Zenovich.

Mr. Gunson also says the judge told the assembled lawyers how he wanted them to argue their sides of the case. Recalling that day in chambers, Larry Silver, one of the lawyers present — he still represents Ms. Geimer — tells Ms. Zenovich how he, Mr. Gunson and Mr. Polanski’s lawyer, Douglas Dalton, had afterward sat together in stunned silence. In all their years in the legal profession, Mr. Silver says, none of them had ever seen anything like that.

(Mr. Polanski’s defense submitted an affidavit charging Judge Rittenband with bias, prejudice and unprofessional conduct, and Judge Rittenband ultimately agreed to allow another judge to handle the case.)

Still, Ms. Zenovich said she was determined to create a balanced film, and her preliminary edit includes views from people who appear less concerned with whether Mr. Rittenband botched the case than with Mr. Polanski’s actions.

“This man committed a rape, committed a bunch of other atrocities and got away essentially with nothing,” says Philip Vannatter, a former Los Angeles police officer. “And I don’t think that’s right.”

Even from the unfinished film, it is apparent that Ms. Zenovich — who made an earlier documentary, “Who Is Bernard Tapie?” without the participation of its subject, the French financier and politician — has become intent, like documentary filmmakers before her, on using the form to delve deeper than the written word or television usually allow.

“A sense of truthfulness is like a drug that hooks you and won’t let you go,” said Barbara Kopple, the documentary filmmaker and two-time Academy Award winner, reached by telephone in her New York office, where, with Cecilia Peck, she is completing “Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing.” “Once you’ve seen it it’s hard to go back. I think that’s why the audience for documentaries keeps growing.”

For her part Ms. Zenovich said her feelings toward Mr. Polanski, as well as those of her mostly female crew, have vacillated in the course of their work.

“You love him one day,” she explained. “You hate him the next. I tell some people I’m doing this and they say: ‘That pedophile! That child molester!’ But all my research leads me to believe he’s misunderstood and endlessly fascinating.”

40 comments:

chasingbunnies said...

>>Judge Rittenband, who left the bench in 1989, died at 88 without completing his quest. But he left behind enough professional and personal drama to have joined Mr. Polanski as a central character in Ms. Zenovich’s forthcoming documentary, which promises to shed new light on one of modern Hollywood’s more perplexing episodes.<<

Very interesting post, I would very much like to see this documentary. Roman Polanski is anything but boring, that's for sure... I watched a 2 hour long documentary about him on either A&E or the History Channel (forget which) don't know how factual it was but it did get a few things right. So Zenovich's documentary should be even more fascinating, especially what this will have to say about Judge Rittenband...thank you Col
cb

deadwoodhbo said...

Perhaps the judge had young daughters.Sorry being a mother of 3 i have to side with Judge Rittenband.polanski is a child molester all his girlfriends after sharon died were young enough to be his daughters.

Deb B said...

"Perhaps he had young daughters"...

Did you read the article? Judge Rittenband had girlfriends young enough to be his daughter. Never married and lived the life of a swinging bachelor.

Dragunov said...

This may be a little off this specific topic, but relates to Roman Polanski. I recently read an article which stated something about a "Polanski Principle" by which a celebrity sex home video will always leak out to the public. This was allegedly named after a tape on which Roman and Sharon recorded their lovemaking for private use and which was apparently taken by the police after TLB and thus leaked out. Is this true/does such tape exist?

ColScott said...

Savage Disciple

You are an insane person. Your posts are solid but you delete them. Therefore please stop posting

Deb B said...

I never seen anything about the tape being leaked out/available. The book Helter Skelter indicates that such a tape was taken as evidence from the Polanski hom, but once the investigators saw what was on it, it was returned to the loft of the and Polanski retrieved it from there shortly after the murders.

deadwoodhbo said...

Deb B said...
"Perhaps he had young daughters"...

Did you read the article? Judge Rittenband had girlfriends young enough to be his daughter. Never married and lived the life of a swinging bachelor.

6:08 AM, October 16, 2006
And does that excuse polanski?

Deb B said...

Not sayin' it does. So, did you read the article?

Dragunov said...

"I never seen anything about the tape being leaked out/available."

Actually, you might be right. I read the article through again and it says the tape was collected by the cops as evidence. Which on one hand may mean it leaked out (i.e was seen by people it was not intended for) on the other hand it does not mean that it was then made publicly available by one way or another. Still, its the first time I heard of such tape.

4Sharon said...

I LIKE Polanski, but feel he was wrong to flee - that's not the message to send to others, fighting for justice. If he fled, then he should not be allowed back, unless he faces another trial...but running was not the answer, whether justice was wrong or not. IMO

Savage Disciple said...

Colscott said,
>You are an insane person. Your posts are solid but you delete them. Therefore please stop posting<

Flattery will get you nowhere Col.

You're hardly what i'd call the poster boy for rational thinking so let's not get into nitpick name calling.

Keep in mind that it takes an insane person to survive in an insane world so i think we're all in good company.

Words are like weapons, i reserve how and when to use them.

There are too many negative vibes on this board so lets get back to the peace and love theme for a while.

In other words, stop acting like a virgin on prom night :-)

Lighten up there fella.

Salem said...

the tapes they found were near washington dc. where was charlene cafritz from????

deadwoodhbo said...

Deb B said...
Not sayin' it does. So, did you read the article?

8:03 AM, October 16, 2006

OK OK you caught me i skimed it:P
However i have read it now and relize i made a mistake:Pnot about polanski but Rittenband.

SiebenzumSterben said...

Yawn Yawn yawn. My eyes glazed over this post halfway down and I couldn't go any further.

I have a point of view, but unfortuantely I can't reveal it here for legal reasons. Because typing in the word verification probably IDS my URL and frankly, I don't need Polanski lawyers coming after me for libel or slander. Sure, he's a public figure, but since when did that stop him from getting settlements in libel suits?
Suffice to say I won't waste my time watching this "documentary."

Savage Disciple said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
deadwoodhbo said...

Savage Disciple said...
Melton holding the jacket:

http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/
i135/slippie64/
WhiteRabbittJacket03.jpg


The links kept truncating ... had to delete them

11:45 PM, October 16, 2006
Darn i couldnt open the link .A picture of that lovely man melton would of made my day.I remember in candygrammers wonderfull manson group melton was showing his self on cam on yahoo messenger,trust me my friends you missed NOTHING!!!!!.Thank you for the post SD.

Salem said...

Back view of Jacket:
http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/
i135/slippie64/
WhiteRabbittJacket01.jpg

yo savage
dontcha think that jacket woud fit 60's! lol

Salem said...

http://i71.photobucket.com/albums/
i135/slippie64/
WhiteRabbittJacket03.jpg

thanks savage!

Savage Disciple said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Salem said...

I was shocked to see Larry's jacket for sale on that website. I never thought he would actually sell it. says savage


me too!
who did he say made the jacket?

Savage Disciple said...

I remember watching the interview that Larry did with the Inyo County Sherrifs department that he did back in 1998.

This was the one that Bill Nelson and his son taped.

On that tape, near the end, Larry tells Bill Nelson that he had the jacket made up but he didn't say who actually did it. It might have been someone in Austin.

He showed a picture of the jacket that Lynette had been working on to the person that made his jacket, hence the replica.

I was under the impression that the "Devils Witches" mark was only for the family girls and that the guys wouldn't have these but yet there was Larry with a Devils Witches jacket.

meatwad said...

"Salem said, Nothing worth anything as usual"

Hi Jenny,

Here is a nice little link for your dumb ass, lol.

http://fora.templumadlibitum.com/foraplex/index.php?topic=157.15

Have a nice evening.

Your buddy,

Meaty

Salem said...

meatwad said...
"Salem said, Nothing worth anything as usual"

Hi Jenny,

Here is a nice little link for your dumb ass, lol.

http://fora.templumadlibitum.com/foraplex/index.php?topic=157.15

I AM NOT JENNY!!!!!!!!

Salem said...

I was under the impression that the "Devils Witches" mark was only for the family girls and that the guys wouldn't have these but yet there was Larry with a Devils Witches jacket.

4:40 PM, October 17, 2006

me too Savage.
ummm

Salem said...

http://fora.templumadlibitum.com/foraplex/index.php?topic=157.15

ya what a realy cordial fourm that WAS!

Salem said...

I was under the impression that the "Devils Witches" mark was only for the family girls and that the guys wouldn't have these but yet there was Larry with a Devils Witches jacket.

also if he was only there for 2 says ( the ranch) why did he get a jacket made for him?
he was a so called member!

Salem said...

odd that no one really recalls
white rabbit, but sandy was upset at a letter he wrote to her YEARS many years ago*

Salem said...

Salem said...
http://fora.templumadlibitum.com/foraplex/index.php?topic=157.15

ya what a realy cordial fourm that WAS!

6:45 PM, October 17, 2006
I may add, I went there after the Col stopped by. I did never abuse the fourm, as I never had all the names Syn said I did. I have Wheat as I own forum by that name, i use Salem here,helterskeleter was a Oct Halloween name. ( i used ONCE)
the other 2 names Syn mentions I have NO idea where he got those.
his friend from Ohio was Shadwdancer on Ronson's fourm, then wetsidewalk(whatever) and then catscradle and maybe more.
No secret I live in NC.
for u 60's Christie webb has no time t read lil snippets of emails u have sent. Your making your self look more stoooopid.
Yes i use Dianne Young cuz DUH thats my name, Whats your name Meatwad?
Syn brings up this email as one i use using fake e-mails like: rnorthcut@brooksdata.net,
I HAVE NEVER USED THAT!
I HAVE A YAHOO ACCOUNT AND MY HOME ACCOUNT. SO I SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO ALL WHO WARNED ME TO EVEN GO THERE TO BEGIN WITH.

so seems they werent happy with the blog the Col has here and went and made one so they could gossip and make fun of people there esp in the lil chat they have going.

chasingbunnies said...

Salem said...
odd that no one really recalls
white rabbit, but sandy was upset at a letter he wrote to her YEARS many years ago*

6:55 PM, October 17, 2006

****
(((((((Salem))))))
I was always under the impression that White Rabbit is/was some mental patient that showed up at the ranch after the murders for a half an hour and was laughed off the property by some of the girls. I have also heard he is just some wannabee out for attention and never even knew any of them. I've heard a lot of rumors about him. So, just saying...
I'd be upset too if that fugly creep wrote me. Maybe Sandy isn't as crazy as she appears. GAG!
cb

Salem said...

Maybe Sandy isn't as crazy as she appears.

SANDY IS MORE SANE THAN SOME OF THE WEIDRO'S THAT I HAVE MET
LATELY.

Salem said...

Salem said...
Maybe Sandy isn't as crazy as she appears.

SANDY IS MORE SANE THAN SOME OF THE Weirdo'S THAT I HAVE MET
LATELY.

1:39 PM, October 18, 2006

sorry sp error

TouchofGrey said...

HaHa. That's funny.

I've been reading this blog for a couple of months now and I have to say, although I'm no fan of Sandra Good you are probably right on that point.

Some of the freaks on the net make the Manson group look like a group of Sunday school teachers.

:)

chasingbunnies said...

Salem said...
Maybe Sandy isn't as crazy as she appears.

SANDY IS MORE SANE THAN SOME OF THE WEIDRO'S THAT I HAVE MET
LATELY.

****
You must be talkin about that place where Salem said...
Maybe Sandy isn't as crazy as she appears.

*****
You must be talking about that new (cough!)forum. The latest from that ton of adipose tissue which arose from the underbelly of the Internet recently. Listen up,folks...warning!!
WATCH OUT WHERE THEM HUSKIES GO AN' DON'T YOU EAT THEIR YELLOW SNOW ...
cb

TouchofGrey said...

Yeah, I checked that group out from the link that was posted on here...they seem a bit paranoid.

I don't think that particular board is worth paying much attention to. I expect they will be hugely popular...NOT.

I do like KTS and this blog although I'm the first to admit I'm not a big fan of the Col., he comes across as a total asshole most of the time but he is the first to admit that he doesn't care what people think of him so I can respect that much.

He posts some cool stuff anyway.

:)

Salem said...

TouchofGrey said...
Yeah, I checked that group out from the link that was posted on here...they seem a bit paranoid.

lol
that is putting it mildly. My God, all I posted was how cool the music feature was then WHAM!!!!! I get caled a abuser?????


I don't think that particular board is worth paying much attention to. I expect they will be hugely popular...NOT.

;) AMEN just a place to go to get LIES told about ya!

WATCH OUT WHERE THEM HUSKIES GO AN' DON'T YOU EAT THEIR YELLOW SNOW ...
cb
LMAO CB:)

meatwad said...

By the way, "from the new york times" is not adequate. You should know this. You have apparently hoisted an article from a publication without permission or have given proper credit, Col.

I would pull it.

Just sayin.

Salem said...

Meatwad
.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/15/movies/15lyon.html?n=Top%2FReference%2FTimes%20Topics%2FSubjects%2FM%2FMotion%20Pictures

DUH*

chasingbunnies said...

meatwad said...
By the way, "from the new york times" is not adequate. You should know this. You have apparently hoisted an article from a publication without permission or have given proper credit, Col.

I would pull it.

Just sayin.

******

And Meatrot..you've taken a copyrighted image of Bart Simpson that's been defiled by some little cretin, to use as your icon. But don't pull it -- shove it instead ;)
cb

ColScott said...

meaty
I gave credit to the author and the publication

If they want to contact me with a correct DMCA complaint I will honor it immediately.

The same with any heirs to Little Paul and Lonely William.

Salem said...

But don't pull it -- shove it instead ;)
cb

LOL
*tears in my eyes* :)