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Roman Polanski’s ‘The Palace’ Secures French Distribution Amid Continued Legal Troubles

Roman Polanski’s ‘The Palace’ Secures French Distribution Amid Continued Legal Troubles

Six months after world-premiering to poor reviews at the Venice Film Festival, Roman Polanski’s latest film “The Palace” has been acquired by a French distribution company, Swashbuckler Films.

The Paris-based banner, which specializes in classic movies, is hoping to release “The Palace” on May 15. The company’s owner, Sebastien Tiveyrat, told Variety he hasn’t yet obtained the exhibition visa from the National Film Board and hasn’t started contacting exhibitors in France to book theaters.

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Although Polanski’s inclusion at the Venice festival sparked a controversy due to the fact that he’s still currently facing sexual assault allegations, “The Palace” sold across many territories, including Germany, Russia, Hungary, Estonia, Bulgaria and French-speaking Switzerland where it came out between September and January. The black comedy will next open in Portugal on April 4. Goodfellas handles international sales on the movie.

“The Palace” takes place during New Year’s Eve in 1999, when a dinner party at Switzerland’s Gstaad Palace hotel takes an unexpected turn. The cast includes Oliver Masucci, Fanny Ardant, John Cleese, Bronwyn James, Joaquim de Almeida, Luca Barbareschi (who also produced the film), Milan Peschel, Fortunato Cerlino and Mickey Rourke.

“The Palace” has been critically panned, with Variety’s chief film critic Owen Gleiberman describing it as a “laughless debacle” and a “New Year’s Eve hotel comedy about a bunch of wealthy idiots.” Yet, Tiveyrat, who admitted that he hasn’t even seen the film, said he is convinced it will be a successful release in France where Polanski’s films have traditionally over-performed, including his previous movie “An Officer and a Spy” which grossed an estimated 10 million euros in local theaters for Gaumont, and went on to earn 12 nominations at the Cesar Awards in 2019. Polanski’s best director win that year ignited the first wave of #MeToo revelations in France. The country is now undergoing a new MeToo reckoning, in the wake of the outrage over actor Gerard Depardieu and directors such as Benoit Jacquot, who has been accused of sexual assault by actress Judith Godreche.

The theatrical release of “The Palace” will likely trigger further uproar in France. The tide has already turned on Polanski in France considering “The Palace” didn’t get picked up by any French TV channels, unlike “An Officer and a Spy,” and failed to attract a major theatrical distributor such as Gaumont.

Polanski was originally arrested in 1977 in Los Angeles for allegedly assaulting 13-year-old Samantha Gailey. He entered a plea bargain and plead guilty to one charge of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, and was sentenced to 90 days of psychiatric evaluation at California prison. He was then released after 42 days and put on probation. Gailey later sued Polanski in 1988 and he eventually settled the suit in the ’90s. He was then arrested again in 2009 in Switzerland at the United States’ request, but ultimately the attempt to extradite him for a trial was unsuccessful. In 2018, Polanski was removed from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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