Roman Polanski-philes now have James Greenberg‘s Roman Polanski: A Retrospective to add their biographical collection. I’ve torn through about half of this 287-page book since returning from New York on Thursday night, and I can say without question that Greenberg’s essays on Polanski an∂ his films are as authoritative, perceptive and well-finessed as F.X. Feeney‘s in his 2006 Polanski book, and that the photos in this coffee-table hardback are second to none. It’s both easy to read and easy not to read, but you’ll want to read it.
I started things off by mentioning a Polanski quote found on page 99, where Greenberg’s discussion of Polanski’s Macbeth (’71) begins. It’s a quote that Quentin Tarantino and every Tarantino-wannabe wanker asshole who’s ever directed a violent scene “in quotes” — i.e., one that’s about style or fashion or irony or whatever bullshit affectation — need to consider. “You have to show violence the way it is,” Polanski says. “If you don’t show it realistically, that’s immoral and harmful. If you don’t upset people, that’s [an] obscenity.”
At the same time don’t forget that Polanski knows how upset and spook audiences as effectively as any recognized horror maestro, and more profoundly at that. His chilling, nearly horrific rendering of the “Banquo’s ghost” scene in Macbeth is a classic of its type, I feel.
I could go on and on but it’s all in our discussion. Just listen to it.
Los Angeles-based fans may want to drop by Book Soup (8818 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood) on Tuesday, 8.13, at 7 pm for Greenberg’s book-signing and discussion. Five days later he’ll introduce a special American Cinematheque double-bill screening of Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion, which will begin at 7:30 pm, and will also hang around for a book-signing.
“James Greenberg’s Roman Polanski: A Retrospective is a brisk study of the director that is full of insight, extremely well-written, very well judged and handsomely presented. I read it in a single sitting and it continues to reverberate with me. It is a first-class job about a first-class director, and marks, as well, the debut of an important new critical voice.” — Richard Schickel.
Here’s the “sweet oblivious antidote” passage from Macbeth.