The best documentary (so far) this year

What hasn’t happened to Roman Polanski? The extraordinarily gifted director (Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown) escaped the Nazis, married the ravishing young actress Sharon Tate — who at eight months pregnant was murdered by the Manson family in 1969 — and then almost a decade later was charged with having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old, after which he went into European exile (and won a libel suit against Vanity Fair). The statutory-rape trial and the escalating media circus that followed are examined in the excellent new documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired (airing on HBO 6/9; in theaters 7/11).

Filmmaker Marina Zenvich neatly stitches together amazing archival footage (oh, those 1970s L.A. fashions!) and interviews with nearly all the participants except Polanski — including the victim, Samantha Geimer (who publicly forgave Polanski in 1997), defense attorney Douglas Dalton (speaking about the case for the first time), and prosecutor Roger Gunson. A fascinating portrait of a man emerges, as does the question of how justice is served when celebrity meets scandal.

Top photo courtesy of Los Angeles Times Collection, UCLA Library Department of Special Collections.

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The best documentary (so far) this year