Cannes: Roman Polanski Says Theaters and Netflix Are Bound to Co-Exist

Polish-French director Roman Polanski said Saturday that Netflix and other digital services “don’t pose a basic threat” to moviegoing.

“People want to go to the movies not because of better sound, projection, or seats, but because they want to participate in an experience with an audience around. This is as old as humanity — look at Greek theaters and Roman circus or concerts,” Polanski told reporters at the press conference for his latest film, “Based on a True Story,” which world premieres Saturday in Cannes.

“I remember, when Walkman or tape became popular, people said, ‘This is the end of concerts!’ and [today, concerts] draw crowds as big as 100,000 people,” said Polanski, who then joked that “it would be hard to see ‘Borat’ alone. You need to see it in cinema with a laughing audience.”

Polanski explained that he was mainly drawn to directing “Based on a True Story” because it had two female protagonists, played by Emmanuelle Seigner and Eva Green.

“I had never made a film with two women who confront each other. I’ve made films with two men, or a man and a woman but never two women,” said Polanski, who attended the presser with Seigner (who is also his wife), Green, director Olivier Assayas (who co-wrote the film), producer Wassim Beji, Oscar-winning music composer Alexandre Desplat, actor Vincent Perez, and novelist Delphine de Vigan.

Polanski added that he was attracted by the thriller element of the project. “The thriller aspect echoes some of my films, especially the early ones, so I felt it was my turf.”

Seigner plays a Parisian author with writer’s block who encounters a mysterious woman (Green) at a book signing.

The 83-year-old helmer talked about the impact of technology on our lives and how truth can be altered, a theme which seemed to strike a personal chord. “There is such a bombardment of electronics. We’ve seen been so surrounded by information, reality, pictures of life around us…and yet, you cannot trust a photograph as a document of the truth,” said Polanski.

“You can cheat and send a picture to an unlimited number of people….You can change the destiny of people by a single gesture that’s amplified around the globe. So there is some appetite for truth, [especially] when we daily hear that the information we believed yesterday is completely false today,” said the filmmaker.

Polanski — who is still wanted by U.S. authorities for having sex with a minor in a case dating back to 1977 — was recently caught up in a much-publicized storm of protest by women’s groups when he was named president of France’s Cesar Awards. He ultimately withdrew from the post.

But there hasn’t been any protest regarding his presence at Cannes. During the 40-minute press conference, he was not asked about his legal battles.  The selection of Polanski’s film at Cannes was announced several days after the initial press conference unveiling the lineup in April. Some industry insiders said the festival may have intentionally delayed the announcement to avoid stirring up a controversy which could have overshadowed news of the entire lineup.

“Based on a True Story” marks Polanski’s first return to filmmaking since his 2013 drama “Venus in Fur,” which played in competition at Cannes. Sony Pictures Classics has North American rights.

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