An Officer and a Spy (film)
An Officer and a Spy (French: J'Accuse) is a 2019 French-Italian historical drama film directed by Roman Polanski about the Dreyfus affair, with a screenplay by Polanski and Robert Harris based on Harris's 2013 novel of the same name.
|An Officer and a Spy|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Roman Polanski|
|Produced by||Alain Goldman|
|Based on||An Officer and a Spy|
by Robert Harris
|Music by||Alexandre Desplat|
|Edited by||Hervé de Luze|
|Box office||$18.2 million|
It had its premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on 30 August 2019, winning the Grand Jury Prize. It received 12 nominations for the 45th César Awards, the most nominations of any eligible film, and eventually won the awards for Best Adaptation, Best Costume Design, and Best Director.
An Officer and a Spy is Polanski's first film to be shot after he was expelled from the AMPAS under the new "ethical standards" of the post-Me Too era. The director's perceived impunity in Europe in that regard made the release of the film and the accolades it won in Italy and France controversial.
The film centres on the notorious 19th century Dreyfus affair. Jean Dujardin stars as French officer Georges Picquart. After being appointed chief of the army's intelligence section (Deuxième Bureau, service de renseignement militaire) in 1895, he discovers that doctored evidence was used to convict Alfred Dreyfus, one of the few Jewish members of the French Army's general staff, of passing military secrets to the German Empire. Picquart risks his career and his life, struggling for a decade to expose the truth and liberate the wrongly convicted Dreyfus from the dreaded Devil's Island prison.
- Jean Dujardin as Georges Picquart
- Louis Garrel as Alfred Dreyfus
- Emmanuelle Seigner as Pauline Monnier
- Mathieu Amalric as Alphonse Bertillon
- Melvil Poupaud as Fernand Labori
- Eric Ruf as Jean Sandherr
- Laurent Stocker as Georges-Gabriel de Pellieux
- Michel Vuillermoz as Armand du Paty de Clam
- Denis Podalydès as Edgar Demange
- Wladimir Yordanoff as Auguste Mercier
- Didier Sandre as Raoul Le Mouton de Boisdeffre
- Grégory Gadebois as Hubert-Joseph Henry
- Vincent Grass as Jean-Baptiste Billot
- Hervé Pierre as Charles-Arthur Gonse
Robert Harris was inspired to write the novel by his friend Polanski's longtime interest in the Dreyfus affair. Harris followed up the novel with a script of the same story, titled D, with Polanski announced as director in 2012.
This film marks the third time Harris has worked with Polanski. Harris previously co-wrote The Ghost Writer with Polanski, which was also an adaptation of one of Harris's novels, The Ghost. The two first worked together in 2007 on a film adaptation of Harris's novel Pompeii, which was cancelled just before filming due to a looming actors' strike.
Although set in Paris, An Officer and a Spy was first scheduled to shoot in Warsaw in 2014, for economic reasons. Production was postponed after Polanski moved to Poland for filming and the U.S. Government filed extradition papers. The Polish government eventually rejected them, by which time new French film tax credits had been introduced, allowing the film to shoot on location in Paris.
The film was budgeted at €60m and was next set to start production in July 2016, but its production was postponed again while Polanski waited on the availability of a star, whose name was not announced.
An Officer and a Spy holds 74% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 27 reviews, with a weighted average of 6.78/10. On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 56 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". The film received a standing ovation during its premiere in Venice, and has overall received positive reviews from critics. David Sexton from the Evening Standard gave to the film a rating of 4 on 5, declaring that: "It's an absolute masterclass in how to make a historical film".
Polanski's attendance at the Venice Film Festival was his first appearance at a major film event since he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in May 2018. During the festival, the head of the jury Lucrecia Martel stated: "I don't separate the man from the art. I think that important aspects of the work emerges in the man. [...] A man who commits a crime of this size who is then condemned, and the victim considers herself satisfied with the compensation is difficult for me to judge... It is difficult to define what is the right approach we have to take with people who have committed certain acts and were judged for them. I think these questions are part of the debate in our times." Martel also stated she would not attend a gala dinner in support of the film. Polanski's producers threatened to pull the film from the festival lineup. Martel later clarified her comments, stating: "According to some reports after today's press conference, I believe my words were deeply misunderstood. Since I don't separate the work from the author and I have recognized a lot of humanity in Polanski's previous films, I am not opposed to the presence of the film in competition. I don't have any prejudice towards it and of course I will watch the film like any other in the competition. If I had any prejudice, I would have resigned my duty as the president of the jury." Alberto Barbera, the festival director of Venice, had previously defended the film being in the lineup, stating: "We are here to see works of art, not to judge the person behind it. I hope we can just discuss about the quality of the film and not about Polanski and the case with L.A. County."
U.S. distribution companies rejected invitations to a buyers' presentation during the Cannes Film Festival. Howard Cohen of Roadside Attractions stated: "I think we would consider it, though I'm not even sure how I personally feel. People have been releasing his films for years. Now, we are looking at it through a different lens, with good reason. We have to search our souls if it's the right thing to do. What does it mean to release this movie? I don't think that's a settled question even in my mind."
In November 2019, five days before the official release of An Officer and a Spy in France, Polanski faced accusations of rape by a French woman, Valentine Monnier. Upon the release, French feminist groups invaded or blockaded several cinemas, having the film cancelled in some places.
When the film was nominated for 12 César Awards in January 2020, women's groups said that the French film academy was acclaiming "an abuser and rapist on the run". Eventually, Polanski as well as other crew members of An Officer and a Spy did not attend the 45th César Awards ceremony. No one was there to accept the awards on Polanski's behalf. The César Award for Best Director to Polanski was poorly received by the audience. Few clapped, and several people walked out in disgust, including Best Actress nominee Adèle Haenel.
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- Portrait of A Lady On Fire Star Adèle Haenel Storms Out of Awards Show After Roman Polanski Wins