It’s one big tease

Amanda Marie Alvarado

‘Unauthorized Polanski,’ a very seductive title indicating a story told without permission alludes to the notorious man of unsanctioned actions, director Roman Polanski. Obviously, writer/director Damian Chapa, who also stars as Polanski, knew his star-labeled film could entice the hearts of cinephiles and Polanski lovers everywhere. However, the true question: Can the docudrama sustain our interest beyond its initial, name-dropping pick-up line?

Similar to a first date, films build on the audience’s confidence in order to render an emotive experience. In our experience of the characters on screen, a good docudrama allows for the same mixture of vulnerability, intelligence, passion and bravery. Unfortunately, Chapa’s film is only concerned with the chase for viewers, not an actual interaction.

The film dramatizes the public domain, non-fictional accounts of Polanski’s life through three story lines: his childhood in Nazi-occupied Poland, his Hollywood life with Sharon Tate and his 1977 statutory rape conviction. Chapa’s co-authored script (with friend Carlton Holder), inter cuts between each plot line building intensity to the ultimate climax in each narrative branch. Ultimately, he fails to create a cohesive merging of these stories, a common difficulty in multi-plot screenplays.

The film bankrupts on so many levels that it accidentally hazards on mockumentary. Poorly written dialogue makes Polanski seem as if he has a 25-word vocabulary, employing ‘baby’ in every sentence. The cinematography lulls viewers asleep with its repetitive shot sequences and poor visual appeal that the film hopes to disguise with black and white photography. Often, the film employed smoke and other visual filters to distract from a singular brick wall that stood for a workers camp or the constant use of hotel rooms as the dominant set. The cast could not cause ripples of emotion even with a huge rock in the middle of the ocean – especially Brienne De Beau’s monotone, bubble gum portrayal of Sharon Tate. How the film spoils the emotive power of Tate’s sensational murder by the Manson family might be a talent in its own right.

In the end, the film’s insights into Polanski’s life are minimal. Chapa sketches a caricature, a story of a human life without any semblance of humanity.