By Chris Nashawaty
Updated July 28, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
Guy Farrandis

At what point does a filmmaker’s offscreen life affect the way we look at what’s on screen? Can you appreciate Charlie Chaplin’s genius without being reminded of his taste for underage girls? Does Woody Allen’s creepy personal life taint our enjoyment of Manhattan? Will we ever want to watch a Mel Gibson movie again? For the most part, I’d argue that an actor’s or director’s private affairs should be just that: private. But it’s not always so easy. Take Roman Polanski, the undeniably brilliant director of Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown who also happens to be a convicted felon who’s never truly paid for the crime of statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. No one can argue that his offense wasn’t monstrous. But the movie lover in me believes it’s possible to separate the two: hate the sinner, love his cinema. Obviously, I’m not going to change anyone’s mind on this. If you’re still so repulsed by Polanski that you’d never rent his latest, The Ghost Writer, that’s fair. But it would be a shame because you’d be depriving yourself of a terrifically tense and twisty thriller. Ewan McGregor gives his best performance in years as a hack author who’s hired to spice up the memoirs of a retired, Tony Blair-like prime minister (Pierce Brosnan, whose pearly whites hide fangs). And when his new boss is accused of war crimes (and perhaps worse), McGregor starts unspooling paranoid fantasies in his mind. It’s easy to see why Polanski would be drawn to a story about persecuted public figures and the urge to rewrite one’s past, but he’s also a master at knowing exactly how and when to tighten the screws on his audience — even if they want nothing to do with him after the lights come up. As for EXTRAS, there’s an unexciting making-of feature and a kid-glove interview with the exiled auteur. A-

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