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Teen Movie Critic

June 3, 1996

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Polanski is one of the few directors from Poland who has made a lasting impact on American audiences. In fact, only one other can be compared to Polanski's brilliance, and that is his mentor Andrzej Wajda (whom Polanski also worked for as an actor). Roman was born in Paris, France on August 18, 1933. He has had a hard time getting to where he is right now. He and his family returned to their native Poland when Roman was three. A few years later, after the Nazis conquered Poland, Roman's parents were taken to consentration camps, where his mother died.

Roman's only enjoyment during this war-torn time was going to the movies. It influenced him to work in theater, radio and film. After working with Wajda during the 50's, as well as filming short movies like Two Men and a Wardrobe, he made a stunning debut in feature films with the internationally acclaimed Knife in the Water (1962). It was followed by films that were more successful in Europe, rather than in America. These included the sexual thriller Repulsion (1965), and the black comedies Cul-De-Sac (1966) and The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967). It was the psychological horror film Rosemary's Baby (1968) that earned Polanski financial success around the globe. The one theme that runs throughout much of Polanski's work mainly spotlights the dark side of humanity. Roman has experianced quite a bit of it. Besides his mother being terminated in the Holocaust, his second wife, actress Sharon Tate, nearly nine mon ths pregnant at the time, was murdered by Charles Manson's demented "family." In 1971, Polanski and Playboy magnate, Hugh Hefner, combined their skills to make their own adaptation of William Shakespeare's violent play, MacBeth. Many critics noted the parellels between the bloodletting on screen and the bloodletting of Polanski's pregnant wife and close associates (Jay Sebring and boyhood chum, Voytek Frykowski among them).

The movie did not do well financially. However, Polanski made a comeback with a great homage to film noir, Chinatown (1974). He also made a memorable performance on screen as the punk who cuts up Jack Nicholson's nose. In 1979, Polanski was arrested on charges of intercourse with a minor (a 13-year old to be precise). He spent time in prison, but soon after he was released he fled the country and has made his films in Europe ever since. His movies during this period include an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Tess (1980), the extremely awful Pirates (1986) and the suspenseful Harrison Ford thriller Frantic (1988). His most recent work was the heart-pounding psychological drama, Death and the Maiden (1994), which was Polanski at his best. If Alfred Hitchcock had never been born, Polanski would hold the title of "Master of Suspense".

My rating on a scale of 1 to 10: 9


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