Roman Polanski’s latest film has topped the French box office in spite of new sexual assaults claims against the director, which led to calls for a nationwide boycott.
In spite of calls for a nationwide boycott, An Officer and a Spy – called J’accuse in French has racked up more than €1.7 million (£1.4million) within five days of its release, following a successful opening weekend.
The movie which stars Jean Dujardin and Louis Garrel, has been released in the wake of a claim in Le Parisien from the actress and photographer Valentine Monnier that the director raped her during a ski holiday in 1975, when she was 18.
Polanski, 86, has lived in France since he fled the threat of prosecution in the US for the rape of a minor in the 1970s. He is married to French actress Emmanuelle Seigner, 53.
The director fled to Paris from the US in 1978 while awaiting sentence after pleading guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, 13-year-old Samantha Gailey.
‘An Officer and a Spy,’ by Roman Polanski is topping the French Box Office in spite of new sexual assault claims against the 86-year-old director (pictured at the premiere of ‘An Officer and a Spy’ on November 12 in Paris
Photographer and actress Valentine Monnier (pictured) came forward claiming Polanski violently raped her when she was 18 in 1975
It is the seventh most successful movie of the year in France, despite French feminist groups calling out promoters and cinemas for distributing the film by the controversial director following Monnier’s interview.
She wrote an essay in July which resurfaced on November 8, where she claimed Polanski raped her during a holiday in Gstaad, in Switzerland in January 1975.
Monnier, who did not contact the authorities at the time, explained she would have remained silent, were it not for the director’s new film.
Opening up about the alleged events, she revealed she barely knew the director when the alleged attack took place.
The new historical drama tells the story of officer Albert Dreyfus, who was accused of treason in 1894 and whose case divided French opinion at the time
‘It happened extremely violently, after we got back to his chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland, from skiing,’ she said.
‘He hit me, beat me until I surrendered, and then raped me and put me through all kinds of vicissitudes.
While she did not contact the police at the time, Monnier explained she told her best-friend and boyfriend of four years shortly after the facts.
Both of them have confirmed her testimony.
Encouraged by the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Monnier revealed she had written to France’s president Emmanuel Macron as well as his wife, Brigitte, the LAPD and the Secretary of Equality between women and men Marlène Schiappa.
Schiappa shared with French press a letter dated from 2018 addressed to Monnier which commended her courage to ‘dare break a 42 years-long silence.’
Saying she ‘felt’ for Monnier’s pain, she stressed that Polanski could not be prosecuted because the statute of limitations had past under French law.
The secretary’s cabinet added that the letter was addressed to all the women who had reached out to her for support, and ‘expressed an obvious unconditional support.’
Feminist protesters gathered at the premiere of ‘An Officer and an Spy’ on November 12 in Paris. One signs read: I accuse: Polanski rapist. The banner is a nod to the movie’s French title, ‘j’accuse’
Roman Polanski fled US justice in 1978 and moved to France after he pleaded guilty to the statutory rape of 13 year old Samantha Gailey in 1977
Herve Temine, Roman Polanski’s lawyer, ‘firmly denied’ any rape accusation, and pointed out that this facts dating back to 45 years ago ‘had never been brought to the authorities.
Public outrage followed her testimony, with protests erupting in Paris ahead of the pre-release showing of the movie in the French capital.
Feminist groups brandished banners calling Polanski a rapist, causing the event to be cancelled.
Following the publication of the Monnier article in Le Parisien Jean Dujardin cancelled an interview with the 8pm news programme of French channel TF1, the most watched of the country.
However, the French actor did not comment on the accusation against Polanski.
Some well known personalities of French cinema have spoken in support of Polanski.
Fellow director Nadine Trintignant said she felt is was ‘very serious to annoy him at a time where antisemitic sentiment is once again on the rise in Europe.’
She told BFMTV: ‘He did something really bad 44 years ago. In the last 44 years, thousands of women have been raped and we don’t know the names of the men responsible of these bad deeds,’ she went on.
She argued that people were ‘always against’ Polanski, saying: ‘There always jealousy of someone’s who made it.’
Monnier’s testimony is the latest in a growing list of rape or assault accusations against Polanski.
The movie stars Jean Dujardin (the Artist). The French actor cancelled an interview with France’s most watched news programme ahead of the movie’s release, but hasn’t commented on the new accusations against Polanski
Polanski, who is married to actress Emmanuelle Seigner, 53, denied any involvement in the rape of Valentine Monnier, his lawyer said
Several women have come forward in recent years claiming that Polanski had raped them, some of them while they were minors.
In 2010, British actress Charlotte Lewis claimed Polanski had sexually abused her during a 1983 casting when she was 16.
Infamously, the director fled the US in 1978 while awaiting sentencing for the sexual abuse case of 13-year-old Samantha Gailey, in which he pleaded guilty to statutory rape.
Because Polanski was born in France and as a French citizenship, he is protected from being extradited to the US. The charges against him are still pending.
‘An officer and a Spy’ focuses on the Affair Dreyfus, which divided France from 1894 to 1906.
It retells how Albert Dreyfus, a French officer, was accused of being a German spy in 1894 and convicted of treason, therefor being dishonourably discharged from the army and made a pariah.
Dreyfus was eventually released and pardon after spending ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
The movie, which takes its name from a pamphlet by author Emile Zola in Dreyfus’ defense, was one of 2019’s most anticipated releases.
It received the Grand Jury Prize of the Venice Film Festival in August 2019 and is set to be released in Belgium and in Italy before the end of the week.
There are no distribution dates yet for neither the UK or the US.