Yesterday, Polish-French director Roman Polanski celebrated his 80th birthday, and while his past is fraught with tragedy and controversy, it also brims with cinematic excellence from his 58-year directing career, only 10 of which he spent making American films. Recognizing his great contribution to the world of cinema, The Playlist has shared two in-depth interviews with the at times fated filmmaker, a 1984 TV interview with Clive James and an episode of Scene By Scene with Mark Cousins which aired in 2000. Polanski shares his experience escaping from the Kraków Ghetto, his approach to filmmaking, and how he pulled off cutting Jack Nicholson's nose in Chinatown.
In this first interview, Clive James and Polanski chat rather casually about life in the ghetto and the murder of his wife Sharon Tate over escargot and wine. He shares that his interest in movies started when he lived in the Kraków Ghetto, when he was able to look through the barbed wire and see projections of newsreels in the square.
After his escape, he would frequent the cinema -- ironically to watch German films, which he described as "lousy." He goes on to say that one of the first films that "struck" him was Robin Hood, an American film. Once he got a taste, he began to read book after book on filmmaking.
He went on to attend the National Film School in Łódź, where he was given the opportunity to work as an assistant director on a major film. Making a bold move, Polanski asked the director of the production company if he could "make his debut," to which the director said, "Yes."
Polanski went on to make some of the most influential pieces of cinema in history. One article from The Guardian describes his work as divided into 3 different types of narratives that he rarely deviates from, "The testing of an unequal marriage, the humbling of a complacent professional, and the crumbling of a lonely mind." When asked in this interview with Mark Cousins what he thought the best of his films was, Polanski replied:
Well, I can tell you the first time that I felt that I really had got it technically smooth was Rosemary's Baby. I can tell you that the first time I made a film that would make me happy because I felt the humor and the tone the way I like it was in the Vampire Killers. Chinatown was the first film that I had no struggle throughout production, because I was totally supported by the producer and that everything at my disposal was really, you know, like a racing driver with a bunch of people standing around you, and just ready to respond to every gesture.
What do you think about Roman Polanski's work? What are your favorite films of his? Let us know in the comments.
[via The Playlist]