Michael McCaffrey lives in Los Angeles where he works as an acting coach, screenwriter and consultant. He is also a freelance film and cultural critic whose work can be read at RT, Counterpunch and at his website mpmacting.com/blog.
Cesar Awards, the French equivalent of the Oscars, has promised to make sweeping changes to increase gender parity and “diversity”, after a #MeToo outcry sparked by 12 nominations for Roman Polanski’s newest film.
Anger over Polanski’s abundant accolades for An Officer and a Spy motivated producer Alain Terzian to spear head the protest, which includes 400 notable French film figures, including stars Omar Sy, Lea Seydoux and directors Jacques Audiard and Michael Hazanavicius.
Polanski, an Academy award winner for The Pianist (2002), has long been a controversial figure. In 1977 he pled guilty to “unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor” and served 47 days in jail. Due to an erratic judge, he then fled America for France, in order to avoid the possibility of more prison and has never returned.
In recent years, a handful of other women have come forward with rape and sexual assault accusations against Polanski from the same general time period as the California crime.
The spark of this current French #MeToo conflagration began in November when, just as An Officer and a Spy – a film about the falsely persecuted Jewish-French officer Alfred Dreyfuss, which many said obliquely referenced the director’s own public reputation battle — was about to premiere. Actress Valentine Monnier made headlines by accusing Polanski of beating and raping her in Switzerland in 1975, when she was 18. In response, women’s groups quickly staged protests at the movie’s premiere, forcing Polanski to surreptitiously exit through a side door.
November also saw bombshell accusations from acclaimed actress Adele Haenel who claimed director Christophe Ruggia sexually harassed her starting in 2002, when she was just 12, which furthered the #MeToo fervor.
France, with its very distinctive and liberated attitudes towards sex, has been left reeling and questioning its own identity in the wake of these #MeToo Cesar Award protests.
Prior to this, the French long held out on importing the more hysteria driven aspects of #MeToo. For example, in January of 2018, at the height of the #MeToo mania in America, esteemed actress Catherine Deneuve and 99 other prominent French women signed a public letter denouncing #MeToo as being “puritanical” and born of a feminism that “beyond denouncing the abuse of power takes on a hatred of men and sexuality.” Vive la resistance.
The latest revelations about Roman Polanski and the fury over his Cesar nominations appear to be the final straw, though, that has broken the back of la resistance de #MeToo and its distinctly American neo-feminist beliefs.
It is easy to understand the outrage over Polanski, an admitted statutory rapist, being celebrated by the Cesar Awards. But the problem is that what the protestors are really interested in has little to do with Polanski’s repulsive depravity.
The Cesar protestors’ main demands are based on identity politics, as they are targeting not him specifically, but want more diversity and gender parity, no doubt regardless of ability, among the Cesar Academy.
This once again proves that #MeToo outrage is a quick gateway drug to the more toxic narcotic of woke totalitarianism.
Polanski may be both a repugnant sexual predator deserving of prison and a cinematic genius deserving of awards, but contrary to the protestors’ position, the Cesar Academy’s job is not to judge Roman Polanski’s guilt or innocence, but rather the quality of his film.
In the case of An Officer and a Spy, it did its job well as even anti-Polanski critics have found the movie to be very good.
One film critic claimed they were“surprisingly taken by it,” and another declared it a “technical master work” and “one couldn’t wish for a more painstakingly researched or beautifully rendered account” and another still that“the longer you look at it, the more impressive it grows.” One anti-Polanski critic even admitted, “I was wary of seeing An Officer and a Spy. Then I did. And it is excellent.”
I would tell you my opinion of the film and whether it was worthy of acclaim…but I haven’t been able to see it since it never got distribution, even on streaming sites, in the US or UK The movie is essentially banned here as distributors don’t want to face the fury of the #MeToo mob. And therein lies the problem, and the future, for French cinema.
With l’affaire Polanski, France has let the tyrannical and insatiable wolf of wokeness into the chicken coop, and it won’t just eat the bad roosters, it will devour anything it can get its jaws on.
America’s recent history shows that neo-feminists and woke authoritarians despise the quaint notions of individual rights and freedom of expression. They feel accusations are convictions, political correctness trumps quality and that art and artists must conform to their dogma or be canceled.
Just as happened in the US, Polanski’s films may soon be confined to the memory hole in France and “diversity”, “inclusion” and “gender parity” will become cudgels used to beat the institutions like the Cesar Awards into submission and force them to disregard quality in favor of political correctness.
Madame Deneuve, aidez-nous, s’il vous plait!