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The only Parisian cinema with the latest Polanski deprograms the disaster film

“I wasn’t aware of these stories around Polanski.

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The only Parisian cinema with the latest Polanski deprograms the disaster film

“I wasn’t aware of these stories around Polanski.” The director of the Studio Galande cinema, in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, Hicham Benmohammed, is the only professional who had scheduled screenings of Roman Polanski's new film, The Palace, in Paris. But, in the afternoon, its director announced to us that he was finally canceling the film. Hicham Benmohammed assures that he is not aware of Roman Polanski's legal affairs. He considers it “professional misconduct”, “carelessness” to have programmed it. He even explains “having been trapped” by the distributor who “sold him the film”.

“I’m going to cancel everything,” he finally explained, very embarrassed. But this decision being taken in the afternoon, while The Palace was scheduled, he reserved the possibility of holding only one session, the same evening. If spectators show up in large numbers to the 8 p.m. session, “out of respect for the public”, he will not send them home.

Shortly before 8 p.m., it was mainly demonstrators that we noticed in front of the cinema. Equipped with banners and signs, the eleven women and one man booed each spectator entering, chanting “we see you rapists” or “we believe you are Lewis”, a reference to the actress Charlotte Lewis, who accuses the director of rape. On their main banner, the screenwriter was renamed “Violanski”. “What do you want us to tell you?,” explains one of them. We're going to tell you that it's bad that he was scheduled, that he was found guilty, and that since it's Polanski it's not a problem? In 1977, the director was sentenced to 90 days in prison after pleading guilty to illicit sexual relations with a 13-year-old minor, Samantha Geimer. Since then, the United States has repeatedly requested that he be extradited to stand trial again.

Not enough to deter those who came to see the film. The cinema ultimately sold 45 seats, quite a good evening for the small venue. The public, mostly in their sixties, is delighted that at least one theater is showing The Palace. Joëlle and Régis, neighbors of the cinema, rushed at 7:30 p.m. to take their seats. “I really like Polanski, he’s a good filmmaker.” Despite the rather unencouraging reviews, they preferred to “form (their) own opinion”. Maxime, in his forties, came from Issy-les-Moulineaux on purpose. He considers that “there are so many people working on the production of the film, you have to think that they are not Polanski”. Alexis came out of “simple curiosity” while he was strolling in the Latin Quarter.

Roman Polanski's latest film, The Palace, was presented out of competition at the Venice Film Festival in September. According to our journalist, Étienne Sorin, the controversial filmmaker's satire of the ultra-rich is a monumental failure. And he had not found a distributor for a theatrical release until recent weeks. “I don’t understand the cabal around Polanski, a 90-year-old filmmaker, who lives in Paris and is still active,” explained Sébastien Tiveyrat, head of Swashbuckler Films, announcing that he was tackling the task “It was inconceivable to me that a work by this genius of cinema would remain invisible in theaters in France,” he explained at the time without having seen the film.

At the end of the session, the demonstrators left and most of the public seemed rather happy with their evening. But a man does not hide his anger. Learning of the film's deprogramming and after having had a telephone exchange with Roman Polanski, Sébastien Tiveyrat came on site for an explanation with the theater manager. The distributor cries scandal, explains that the theater will lose money with this decision and even argues that it is “good publicity” for this small arthouse cinema. But Hicham Benmohammed does not budge: the film will not be screened a second time at his home.

Roman Polanski, aged 90, is accused of rape and sexual assault by a total of ten women. Accusations that he denies outright. While the 77th Cannes Film Festival has just started and the new Metoo wave is sweeping the Croisette and in the cinema world more broadly, the man has become one of the symbols of violence against women, while a veil trouble now covers his filmography. In 2020, he received his fifth César for his film J'accuse, during a memorable ceremony placed under the sign of feminism and anger. This week, while he was sued for defamation by British actress Charlotte Lewis, Roman Polanski was acquitted by the Paris judicial court. He called the actress' accusations of rape “odious lies”.

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