Roman Polanski

By: Annie Nocenti
August 18, 2009


The life and films of ROMAN POLANSKI (born 1933) in turn foreshadow, stalk and haunt each other. His films seem apolitical, but the claustrophobia of his childhood — in the Kraków Ghetto, surrounded by barbed wire and Nazis — is ever close. Small and agile, he would scramble through holes in the walls and slip into German-run movie houses; is it any wonder this auteur has a profound sense of the absurd? Repulsion, a sexual horror film, and The Tenant, with its gender-confused protagonist, are surrealist experiments in identity: nothing is to be trusted, especially not oneself. His masterpiece, the triangulated Knife on the Water, gracefully slips a blade into the heart of marriage. When filming Chinatown, he insisted that power triumph, the hero be left helpless, the heroine dead. Polanski lost things: his mother to a concentration camp, his wife and unborn child to the Manson cult, his ability to live in America to a rash indiscretion. In Rosemary’s Baby, every shot is from the pregnant Rosemary’s subjective POV, and therefore the existence of the devil is suspect. In many of his films, the POV is that of an unreliable narrator; as he once told me in an interview: “Well, I guess that means I’m the unreliable narrator.”


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | Shelley Winters |

READ MORE about men and women born on the cusp between the Postmodernist (1924-33) and Anti-Anti-Utopian (1934-43) Generations.


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