There’s a subtle whiff of danger that comes with even mentioning Roman Polanski these days, but I’ve been watching his 12.22.71 interview with Dick Cavett, and it’s really quite fascinating. You can just watch and watch and forget about everything else.
The Cavett drop-by happened two and half years before Chinatown opened and was primarily about promoting Polanski’s Macbeth, which had opened two days earlier in Manhattan. Nobody saw it and Hugh Hefner took a bath, but it’s so fully charged and tinged with such ripe, matter-of-fact horror. I still regard it as the best film version of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy, hands down.
My point (and I do have one) is that you can’t watch this interview without feeling stirred by…I don’t know, the strange and complex and sometimes horrific nature of the human experience and especially the one that Polanski went through as a child. We’re all mindful of the rote associations that spring to mind when his name comes up, of course, but I’m talking about considering his remarks without reflecting on the sexual abuse incident that would mark his and his victim’s life for several decades to come, starting on 3.10.77. The Cavett chat happened four and 1/3 years before he would make his bed in that regard.
Cavett to Polanski (26:35): “You’ve said that you’ve faced death several times. Your own death, closely, several times. Does that give you a feeling of…I’m trying not to make some fatuous comment…after these experiences is there a sense that every day you’ve gotten has been a bonus of some kind?” Polanski to Cavett: “It took me a very long time to come to this conclusion. Strangely enough, I think it was only two years ago. Every day is a bonus.”
Polanski’s wife Sharon Tate had been brutally murdered, of course, roughly two years earlier. (28 months and two weeks.) I was thinking about this in lieu of the approach of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, which opens less than three weeks hence. Quentin Tarantino went to great effort and expense to recreate the film-biz realm of 1969, and for all of it the movie never feels like a time machine, not really. Like every film he’s ever made or will make, it’s basically another visit to Quentinworld.