Polanski’s Arrest: Why the French Are Outraged

So what if he raped a 13 year old? He made Chinatown!

Although the cultural divide between Europe and the U.S. has narrowed over the years, the legal fate of director Roman Polanski shows there are still major differences. Polanski’s arrest in Switzerland on Sept. 26 was greeted with satisfaction in the U.S., where authorities hope he will face sentencing for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Europeans, meanwhile, are shocked and dismayed that an internationally acclaimed artist could be jailed for such an old offense.

“To see him thrown to the lions and put in prison because of ancient history — and as he was traveling to an event honoring him — is absolutely horrifying,” French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said after Polanski was arrested upon arrival in Switzerland to attend the Zurich Film Festival, where he was to receive a lifetime achievement award. “There’s an America we love and an America that scares us, and it’s that latter America that has just shown us its face.” In comments that appeared to be directed at Swiss and American authorities to free Polanski, Mitterrand added that both he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy hoped for a “rapid resolution to the situation which would allow Roman Polanski to rejoin his family as quickly as possible.”

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